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NBA Notes: Chris Paul looks to get over playoff hump with Rockets

NBA Notes: Chris Paul looks to get over playoff hump with Rockets

HOUSTON -- Chris Paul didn't talk about his legacy, and never uttered the word "championship" on Friday when he was officially introduced as the newest member of the Houston Rockets.

Still, Paul's motivation for opting into the last year of his contract so the Los Angeles Clippers could orchestrate his trade to Houston was clear. He and the Rockets believe that adding him to a team headlined by James Harden gives both parties a much better shot to chase a title.

"It's not just about me coming here to help him," Paul said. "He's going to help me. We're going to help each other, and we're going to help this team hopefully get to where we want to be at."

The Rockets haven't won a championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1994-95, and knew they had to add another superstar to this team which was ousted by the Spurs in the second round last season to have any chance to get another one.

"This is a moment that our whole organization has been working toward to get ourselves back to a championship," general manager Daryl Morey said. "We really do think this is a historic pairing with Chris Paul and James Harden and the great players we have around them ... that really gives us an unbelievable chance at getting back and getting our third championship" (see full story).

Celtics: Hayward officially signs 4-year max deal
BOSTON -- Brad Stevens was just a week or so into his new job as Butler head coach when Gordon Hayward was his first recruit to visit.

A decade later, they've been reunited with the Boston Celtics.

There was an "immediate familiarity" when the Celtics pitched Hayward on the team, he said in a conference call with reporters Friday after signing his four-year deal worth about $128 million. "It brought back memories of when I was being recruited in high school by Coach Brad. This time it's at the next level."

Ten days after announcing that he had accepted the Celtics' offer and agreed to leave Utah, Hayward officially joined a team that earned the No. 1 seed in the East last season and reached the conference finals.

One of the most coveted free agents of the offseason, the Celtics lured Hayward from the Jazz with a max contract and the chance to rejoin his college coach. At Butler, Stevens and Hayward were together for the first of the Bulldogs' back-to-back NCAA championship game appearances in 2010.

"It's really an unbelievable thing to be sitting with a guy in your office when he's 16 or 17 years old, and to again be sitting with him when he's 27," Stevens said (see full story).

Pacers: Guard Joseph acquired from Raptors
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers have acquired guard Cory Joseph from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for the draft rights of forward Emir Preldzic.

Joseph, who is 6-foot-3, averaged 9.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 25 minutes last season. He made 22 starts.

Joseph, who turns 26 next month, played in Toronto for two seasons after spending the first four years of his pro career in San Antonio.

Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a release that Joseph "has been on our radar for a while."

Preldzic has spent the last two seasons in the Turkish League. The Pacers had acquired his draft rights in a July 2016 trade with the Dallas Mavericks. He was selected by Phoenix in the second round of the 2009 draft.

Knicks: Mills promoted to president, Perry hired as GM
NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks promoted Steve Mills from general manager to president Friday and hired Scott Perry as general manager.

Mills takes over the position left vacant by Phil Jackson's departure last month.

"Today marks a culture change for our organization where we re-establish the pride, work ethic and responsibility that comes with playing for the Knicks and representing New York," owner James Dolan said in statement released by the team. "I'm confident that Steve is the right person to take on this role, and ensure that we return to one of the elite teams of the NBA."

Mills returns to the role he held briefly before Jackson was hired in March 2014 and Mills was made general manager.

"I want to thank Jim for having the confidence in me to lead this team at such a critical time," Mills said in the team release.

Perry was the executive vice president of operations for the Sacramento Kings and previously held front-office roles for other organizations.

All-Star sidelined for Sixers' game vs. Bucks

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All-Star sidelined for Sixers' game vs. Bucks

CAMDEN, N.J. -- The first matchup between the oversized point guards will have to wait.

Ben Simmons will not face off against Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is sidelined because of soreness in his right knee, in the Sixers' Saturday evening game against the Bucks. Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.3 blocks per game this season. 

That’s not the only absence.

Jerryd Bayless, who had started in place of JJ Redick (leg), is out with a sore left wrist. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot gets the nod at shooting guard.

“It’s another opportunity to show up and make some shots and prove that I can do that,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said at shootaround, also noting he has to play tough defense on Eric Bledsoe (17.7 points per game).

Reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon will also miss the game because of a personal matter, per the Journal Sentinel. Brogdon beat out Joel Embiid and Dario Saric for the award last season. 

Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) remains out. He worked on free throws, driving drills, and knocked down a jumper in the portion of shootaround available to the media.

Raptors continue to take care of business at home

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Raptors continue to take care of business at home

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Toronto Raptors beat San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak against the Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 17-3 at home, the second-best home record in the NBA behind San Antonio's mark of 19-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 15 points and Patty Mills had 13 as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six road games. The Spurs are 11-15 away from home.

It had been more than two years since Toronto last beat San Antonio. The Raptors won 97-94 at home on Dec. 9, 2015.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game because of a sore right thigh. Ginobili returned to Texas after the Spurs won at Brooklyn on Wednesday (see full recap).

Beal, Oubre spark Wizards’ win over Pistons
DETROIT -- Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 26 points each, and the Washington Wizards scored 45 points in the third quarter before holding on for a 122-112 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

The Pistons cut a 20-point second-half deficit to four in the fourth quarter, but John Wall made a big 3-pointer to put the Wizards up 107-100. Oubre added a four-point play a few possessions later to push Washington's lead to nine.

Andre Drummond had 14 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists for the Pistons, who have lost four straight.

Both teams were struggling coming into the game. The Wizards lost by 24 at Charlotte on Wednesday, and they fell behind by 15 in the first quarter at Detroit. It was tied at 46 at halftime, though (see full recap).

Nets edge Heat to snap 5-game home skid
NEW YORK -- DeMarre Carroll scored 26 points, Spencer Dinwiddie had 15 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Miami Heat 101-95 on Friday night.

Brooklyn snapped a five-game losing skid at Barclays Center and a seven-game home losing streak to the Heat.

Caris LeVert and Joe Harris each added 12 points for the Nets. D'Angelo Russell played 14 minutes and went 0-for-5 from the field for Brooklyn in his first action after missing 32 games following left knee surgery.

Hassan Whiteside had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Goran Dragic scored 17 points for the Heat.

LeVert made an acrobatic layup to give the Nets a 95-91 lead with 57.8 seconds remaining and then made a step-back jumper to ice the game at 97-91 (see full recap).