Paul Pierce

NBA Notes: Paul Pierce officially retires as a member of the Celtics

NBA Notes: Paul Pierce officially retires as a member of the Celtics

BOSTON -- Paul Pierce is retiring as a member of the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics announced Monday that they have signed Pierce to a contract so the 10-time All-Star can retire with the team where he spent his first 15 seasons in the NBA.

Pierce helped bring Boston a championship in 2008 as part the "Big Three" of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Pierce previously said that last season would be his final one in the NBA.

Drafted by Boston as the 10th overall pick in 1998, Pierce started a 15-season run that is behind only John Havlicek's 16 seasons for the most played in a Celtics uniform.

"It's an honor to have this opportunity to once again call myself a Boston Celtic," Pierce said in a statement. "The organization and city took me in and made me one of their own, and I couldn't imagine ending my career any other way. I'm a Celtic for life" (see full story).

Rockets: Owner Leslie Alexander is selling team
HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets are going up for sale.

Rockets CEO Tad Brown made the announcement Monday, hours after owner Leslie Alexander made the decision.

"It's been my great joy and honor to own the Houston Rockets for the past 24 years," Alexander said in a statement. "I've had the incredible opportunity to witness true greatness through the players and coaches who have won championships for the city, been named to All-Star and All-NBA teams, enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and done so much for our franchise and our fans."

Alexander took over as owner on July 30, 1993, and the Rockets went on to win back-to-back titles in 1994-95 behind the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. In 24 seasons under Alexander, the Rockets have won 56.9 percent of their games, fifth-highest in the league.

Brown said the 74-year-old Alexander had been approached over the years by potential buyers, but never considered it until very recently.

"I think it's been something he's been thinking about a little bit," Brown said. "It can wear on you after so many decades and he's tired. There are passions in his life now that are becoming more and more clear. His family, certainly, and his philanthropic efforts, what he'll be able to do with his additional time and his resources on a global scale is something that he's very much looking forward to" (see full story).

Knicks: Team open to moving on with or without Anthony
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Knicks' new regime is ready to move on with or without Carmelo Anthony.

New president Steve Mills said Monday the Knicks have been talking to teams about a trade and will continue looking for a deal that works for the organization and its All-Star forward.

"But we also feel that Carmelo could easily be a part of our team next year, and we have to understand how we're going to play and what the expectations of how we're going to play, and we're going to move forward," Mills said. "So maybe with Carmelo or maybe without Carmelo."

Mills also ruled out a buyout of Anthony's contract, which has two years and about $54 million remaining and might be an easier route to a breakup than a trade.

Phil Jackson had been eager to deal Anthony before he and the Knicks parted ways last month. Mills was promoted to president and the Knicks hired Scott Perry as general manager.

They said the Knicks will focus on youth and athleticism, which doesn't seem to leave room for the 33-year-old Anthony. But they added that veterans will still have a place in mentoring the young talent.

Anthony has a no-trade clause and has told the Knicks he would agree to a deal with Cleveland or Houston. But the Knicks don't want to take back long-term contracts, which makes finding a deal difficult. Now Mills has Perry to help him find one (see full story).

NBA Playoffs: Jazz cruise past Clippers in Game 7; will play Warriors in semis

NBA Playoffs: Jazz cruise past Clippers in Game 7; will play Warriors in semis

LOS ANGELES -- Gordon Hayward scored 26 points and the Utah Jazz easily eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday with a 104-91 victory, winning the first-round playoff series 4-3.

George Hill and Derrick Favors added 17 points apiece in Utah's first postseason victory since 2010.

The Jazz advanced to face top-seeded Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals. The Warriors swept Portland 4-0 and have been waiting since Wednesday to find out their next opponent.

Game 1 is Tuesday in Oakland.

The Clippers' DeAndre Jordan had 24 points and 17 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the series. Jamal Crawford added 20 points off the bench.

Chris Paul had 13 points for the Clippers, who were sent packing in the first round for the second straight year (see full recap).

Isaiah Thomas leads Celtics over Wizards in Game 1
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 33 points and nine assists, and the Boston Celtics made 19 3-pointers to beat the Washington Wizards 123-111 Sunday and take a 1-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup.

Thomas played just a day after attending the funeral for his sister, who died in a car accident last month outside of Tacoma, Washington.

Al Horford added 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Jae Crowder finished with 24 points.

The Wizards were more energetic at the outset, jumping out to a 16-0 advantage and leading by as many as 17 points. But the Celtics rallied in the second quarter with Thomas briefly sidelined after getting one of his two front teeth knocked out.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 27 points. John Wall added 20 points and 16 assists.

Washington starter Markieff Morris played just 11 minutes before leaving with a sprained left ankle in the second quarter (see full recap).

CSN Insiders Notebook: Magic Johnson returns; Serge Ibaka on the move?

CSN Insiders Notebook: Magic Johnson returns; Serge Ibaka on the move?

AN ARENA NEAR YOU — Welcome to another edition of the CSN Insiders Notebook.

Our CSN Bay Area Insider Monte Poole writes about the Los Angeles Lakers' reaching out to former Laker great Magic Johnson to take on a more official role with the team and help them navigate through what has been one of the worst stretches in the franchise’s illustrious history.

Lakers: Magic Johnson returns
One week after one Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant, offered his assistance to the team, franchise shot-caller Jeanie Buss turned to another legend in hopes of pulling the team out of its four-year tailspin.

She brought back Magic Johnson, who will serve as an adviser.

Johnson will work with ownership and coaches and even mentor and study players on the roster or those who might be considered.

“Everyone knows my love for the Lakers,'' Johnson said in a statement released by the team. ''Over the years, I have considered other management opportunities, however my devotion to the game and Los Angeles make the Lakers my first and only choice.

“I will do everything in my power to help return the Lakers to their rightful place among the elite teams of the NBA.''

It’s a big job, as the Lakers are on a trajectory to win 26 games and miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season for the first time in franchise history.

Clippers struggling without Chris Paul
After losing star point guard Chris Paul to a ligament tear in his left thumb on Jan. 17, the Clippers lost six of their next eight games, with four of the six by double-digit margins.

So, yes, they desperately miss the man who orchestrates their offense and sets the tone for their defense.

“When you’ve got a guy out like Chris,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “you don’t have a margin for error.”

When the Clippers opened the season by winning 14 of their first 16 games, there was growing belief they could push the Warriors for Western Conference supremacy. That hope is history. The Warriors have won nine in a row over L.A., including three games this season.

“We’re playing and figuring out how to play without a guy who has the ball in his hands probably 80 percent of the time on offense,” said Blake Griffin, who returned Jan. 31 after a five-week absence. “That changes a lot of things for us.” – by Monte Poole

Kings beat the best, beaten by the worst
The Kings joined rare company Saturday night. They are now one of just three teams to beat both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors this season. To confuse matters, Sacramento has also lost to the Suns, 76ers, Magic, Lakers and Heat (twice).

DeMarcus Cousins missed a triple-double by just one assist in Sacramento’s overtime win over the Warriors on Saturday night. The All-Star big man is averaging 6.5 assists per game over his last 22 contests.

Injuries are piling up for the Kings. Both Omri Casspi (right calf) and Garrett Temple (left hamstring) are out until after the All-Star break. They join Rudy Gay on the injured list, who is done for the season with a torn left Achilles. – by James Ham

Spurs: Another milestone for Popovich
After back-to-back losses last week, the Spurs have rattled off three straight wins and look primed for a deep playoff run. With their victory over the Nuggets on Saturday, Gregg Popovich surpassed Jerry Sloan for most wins with one team in NBA history. He now has 1,128 regular season victories as the head coach of the Spurs.

Pau Gasol is out until after the All-Star break after undergoing surgery on his left hand, but he is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. – by James Ham

Mavericks: Yogi Ferrell staying around
OK, so let me get this straight. Yogi Ferrell wasn’t good enough to stick with the Brooklyn Nets (they’re the only team in the NBA that still has a single-digit win total this season), but can lead the lottery-bound Dallas Mavericks (although his play is making that more and more unlikely) to becoming one of the hottest teams out West?

Ferrell, who has reportedly came to terms on a two-year deal with the Mavericks instead of having him sign another 10-day contract, has led the Mavericks to four straight wins to put them within striking distance of being in the back-end of the playoff picture.

As of Sunday, they were 10th in the West but only two games outside of the eighth and final playoff spot that’s currently being held down by the Denver Nuggets.

“Our guys love him and we are thrilled by how well he has been playing," Mavs owner Mark Cuban told ESPN via the Dust messaging app.

In his four-game career with Dallas, Ferrell has averaged 17.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists while shooting 52 percent on threes. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Timberwolves: LaVine out for season
The breakout season for Zach LaVine has ended after the third-year guard suffered a torn ACL injury last week. The injury occurred during Minnesota’s 116-108 loss to Detroit on Feb. 3.

LaVine, better known for his above-the-rim exploits, displayed the kind of growth you like to see in a player striving to prove there’s more to his game than just highlight plays.

In 47 games this season, the two-time Slam Dunk champion averaged a career-high 18.9 points while shooting a career-high 45.9 percent from the field. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Nuggets: Jokic's strong play no joking matter
It’s understandable how a big man can get overlooked when your rookie season coincides with that of Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and New York’s Kristaps Porzingis. But the days of not knowing who Nikola Jokic is, well they’re not going to last much longer. Not with the way he has been giving teams the business, blending in a solid offensive game that’s built around a strong knack for knocking folks around at the rim for rebounds.

In the Nuggets' last 25 games (they are 13-12 in that span, and were 9-16 before), he has been a near double-double machine with a 19.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists while shooting 62.5 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from three-point range. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Celtics: Passing of the torch
For 15 years, the Boston Celtics were Paul Pierce’s team even after Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came aboard. After he was traded to Brooklyn in 2013, they became the post-Big Three/Pierce Celtics.

Well, Isaiah Thomas has made this his team, and Pierce is behind that changing of the guard 100 percent.

Before Pierce’s final game at the TD Garden on Sunday (he’s retiring after this season), he had a chance to sit down for dinner with Thomas on Saturday.

Pierce praised the two-time All-Star for the player he was becoming and the role as the franchise’s leader he was stepping into.

“He’s taken the torch, man,” Pierce said. “He’s ... the city is proud of him for what he’s doing. You know, I keep up. I’ve been watching him. And especially where he’s come from. I mean, he’s been on like three or four different teams and now he’s finally established himself as an NBA MVP candidate, All-Star. Just the route that he took — he wasn’t projected to really be much in the NBA as a small guy, and so he’s ... he’s taken a different route than a lot of us and he definitely could carry the torch in his time here.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Raptors: Upgrade at backup PG?
There has been a lot of talk about the Raptors’ search for another big man. But they’re also in the market for better play from their backup guards, too. Cory Joseph has been Kyle Lowry’s backup and while he has shown himself to be a decent shooter, his defense this season has left a lot to be desired. And as we all know, it’s a team’s defense that more often than not factors heavily in its ability to navigate from one round of the playoffs to the next. Joseph isn’t the only option they have in-house.

If Joseph’s defense continues to be a problem, Toronto head coach Dwane Casey may turn to Fred VanVleet, who is smaller in size but has shown the ability to be a solid defender and decent playmaker.

The Raptors also have Delon Wright from Utah. The second-year guard has not seen any action with them this season. His 6-foot-5 frame gives Toronto some flexibility when he’s on the floor defensively. He would be an ideal defensive-minded point guard, which could certainly complement Kyle Lowry’s game. But his shooting needs lots of work, and as we’ve seen more and more with the league these days, teams want guards who are at a minimum, adequate shooters. Wright isn’t there yet. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Cavs: Varejao back to Cleveland?
When the Golden State Warriors waived Anderson Varejao, the rumor mill immediately focused on the veteran big man's returning to Cleveland, the team that drafted him and later traded him away.

While there’s no doubt Cleveland could use him as an additional big man, the Cavaliers aren’t likely to jump on him immediately.

For starters, he’s unlikely to clear waivers, not with a handful of teams still needing to get to the NBA salary floor of $84.7 million. And even if he does, they couldn’t reacquire him until Feb. 18 because league rules prevent players from returning to the team that traded them away for at least one year.

A bigger need (at least in LeBron James’ eyes) for Cleveland is to acquire another playmaker. The Cavs aren’t eager to trade for one but could land a good one (Rajon Rondo?) if a player is waived or becomes available after agreeing to a buyout. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Magic: Serge Ibaka on the move?
Their offseason restocking of the roster hasn’t worked for the Orlando Magic, and apparently, Serge Ibaka could be traded again.

Ibaka is making $12 million in the final year of his contract, and while he has posted solid numbers in Orlando he hasn’t been a difference-maker in the win column.

One team listed as having “interest” in Ibaka — the Wizards — is incorrect. They already have a starter power forward in Markieff Morris who is significantly more affordable, better because he has a post-up game, playing the best basketball of his career and under contract through 2019.

Ibaka will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and will command a hefty raise that’s out of their price range.

Just like with Ryan Anderson last year at this time, the Wizards weren’t going to gamble with picks or rotation players for a rising unrestricted free agent who they’re not willing to enter a bidding war to retain. Ibaka wouldn’t start for the Wizards in such a scenario, which would be problematic and they don’t have attractive enough assets on the bench they’re willing to part with to facilitate such a deal.

The Wizards are waiting for Ian Mahinmi to return to action, which should occur before the All-Star break, to determine their next move. If the backup center isn’t able to be effective coming off platelet-rich plasma therapy to both knees, they’ll be in the market for a big to slot behind Marcin Gortat, 32, who is playing a career-high 34.5 minutes. – by J. Michael

Hawks: Hardaway Jr. benefiting from Korver trade
The trade of Kyle Korver has done wonders for Tim Hardaway Jr., and his stock is at the highest of his career.

Coach Mike Budenholzer still keeps him coming off the bench because of the offensive spark, but Hardaway has been exceptional. He scored a career-high 33 points in a 20-point comeback over the Houston Rockets. He's averaging 17 points as a starter.

Hardaway is making $2.2 million so keeping him restricted won’t be a problem for Atlanta. They’re in the thick of the playoff race and thin at guard so unloading him for a player of comparable salary doesn’t add up. There are plenty of teams that believe they are one bench scorer away from reaching the next level and because of that, players such as Hardaway always will create interest. – by J. Michael