Eastern Rumors: Butler, James, Jack, Wall

In an appearance Wednesday on ESPN’s “The Jump,” Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said he expected his partnership with Derrick Rose to be broken up, relays Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. It happened last week when Rose was shipped to the Knicks in exchange for three players. “I can’t say that I was surprised, but I knew that it had to be one of us, to tell you the truth,” Butler said. “Obviously, I enjoyed playing with him. I came into the league when he was the MVP. I’ve got so much respect for the guy. I have no bad things to say about him and I wish him the best moving forward.” Butler, who was the focus of draft night trade rumors involving the Celtics and Timberwolves, said he’s not certain he will still be with Chicago when the season opens.

There’s more tonight from the Eastern Conference:

  • The NBA’s “over 36 rule” is behind LeBron James‘ decision to decline his player option, explains Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. James would be subject to that rule if he signs a two-year deal just as he did last summer with the intention of opting out after one season. For players who have turned 36, their final annual salary in a four- or five-year contract is counted proportionally against the team’s cap each season. The rule was adopted to discourage teams from giving long-term contracts to players who are unlikely to be in the league for the entirety of them. The rule prohibits James from accepting a five-year, $200MM contract from the Cavaliers after this offseason because the pro-rated part would put him above the maximum salary. However, Zillgitt points out that the rule could be amended if the players or the league opts out of the current collective bargaining agreement in December.
  • The Cavaliers aren’t concerned about losing their stars, but they have decisions to make on six free agents, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Cleveland will have to determine how many years it wants to commit to J.R. Smith and whether it wants to outbid competitors to keep Matthew Dellavedova. Also, Richard Jefferson and James Jones have to decide if they want to play another season at the veterans minimum.
  • The Nets stretched the $500K in guaranteed salary owed to point guard Jarrett Jack when they waived him earlier today, tweets NetsDaily. The move will save the team $333,333 in cap space this offseason.
  • John Wall wants to see the Wizards adopt an aggressive attitude toward free agency, tweets Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post. “The organization’s got to be willing to step up to the plate and get what needs to be done, done,” Wall said.
  • The Pistons would like to add two more big men this offseason, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Coach/executive Stan Van Gundy said starting power forward Tobias Harris doesn’t really fit that description, and he wants to be sure the team isn’t short on size next year. “I think I wouldn’t be comfortable going with fewer than five, so we’ve got to go out and get two bigs – four, five, whatever,” Van Gundy said. “We need two bigger guys, even though Marcus [Morris] and Tobias will play there a lot. You just get into certain matchups.”
  • The performance of second-round pick Michael Gbinije in summer league will help determine the fate of Phil Pressey, Langlois writes in the same piece. Pressey is also on the Pistons‘ summer league roster, but his chances at winning a backup point guard spot for next season will decrease if Gbinije shows he can handle the position.
  • A stress fracture in his lower back will sideline Detroit’s Darrun Hilliard for the summer league and possibly longer, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. A 6’6″ reserve guard, Hilliard played in 38 games last summer and was projected to have a significant role on the Pistons‘ summer league team. “I just thought my back was tight and I just thought that I wasn’t stretching enough,” he said. “I was stretching and stretching and stretching, thinking it would get better and it never got better.”
  • Free agent swingman Evan Fournier said he wants to stay with the Magic, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Fournier, whose role likely increased with last week’s trade of Victor Oladipo to the Thunder, said he isn’t sure if his agent lined up meetings with any other teams. “Obviously, our priority is the Magic,” Fournier said. “I’ve said it many times: I feel great here.”

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