Could Boston get a max player? Almost, but would they jettison Pierce to do it?

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Thumbnail image for Pierce_leaning.jpgCan you picture Dwyane Wade as a Celtic? Chris Bosh? Even that other big name? Reshaping the Celtics around that player and Rajon Rondo?

It’s not impossible. But it’s not very likely either.

Here’s how it shakes out. The Celtics have more than $15 million in room under the cap on paper, but not in reality. Yet. Pierce opted out of his contact, but under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement there is still what is called a “cap hold” on the Celtics. It holds the place of the salary the Celtics are expect to sign if Paul Pierce came back. The goal is to prevent a team like the Celtics from signing Wade or another free agent, then re-signing Pierce and Allen using their “Bird rights” (the rights of a team to go over the cap to keep a player).

What that means in English: To sign a top free agent the Celtics could have renounce their rights to Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and every other free agent on the roster. Sorry Tony Gaffney.

That all combined with the retirement of Rasheed Wallace — which he announced but is not official with the league yet — would leave the Celtics just $55,000 short of one max contract.

However, renouncing the rights means the Celtics cannot bring Pierce back. At all. He is off to wallow in Clippers losses, or wherever he lands.

All of that does not sound like what Danny Ainge has planned — he wants to work out a deal with Pierce. That’s what he told the Boston Herald.

“There’s too many other things that factor in right now,” said Ainge. “Who else can we get? But it’s not all dependent on getting Paul back. I don’t think it all rests on his shoulders…”

Ainge would rather negotiate with Pierce than renounce his rights, pointing to the fact that the Celtics general manager still believes that his captain still wants to return – albeit at a heavy cost that could tie up the team’s flexibility for four more years.

Pierce could tie be given a four-year, $96 million deal (that’s what he wants, not to be a free agent under the coming and less fun for players CBA). But with Garnett’s contract expiring in two years, would the Celtics want to tie up their salary cap for four years, slowing the eventual rebuilding around Rondo? Would Pierce accept a two year deal? Two years with an option for a third? At less money than a max deal?

Ainge has some hard choices ahead. Do you start the rebuilding now? Can you get a player of decent quality of Pierce goes? Do you really let an iconic Celtic like Pierce finish his career as a Clipper?

Hard times, hard choices in Boston.

Paul George ejected for arguing calls, Pacers go on to lose to Heat

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Paul George already had one technical in the game (from a double technical situation), when he thought he was fouled and should have gotten a call fairly early in the third quarter of a tight Pacers game against the Heat.

George apparently wouldn’t let up barking at the referees, maybe said some magical words, but whatever happened the officials hit him with a second technical. He was tossed. You can see the reaction above.

The Pacers hung close in the game until the Heat went on a 21-4 run to open the fourth and that was the ballgame. If you’re the undisputed leader of your team — as George is — you just can’t get tossed for things like this.

Warriors first team to clinch playoff slot with win over Nets

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 27 points on a night Kevin Durant missed his first game of the season with a hand injury, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Brooklyn Nets 112-95 on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth.

Klay Thompson added 24 points. Curry converted a four-point play just before halftime to put his team up 62-51 at the break. The two-time reigning MVP had five 3-pointers and five assists.

This is just a first step for these star-studded, NBA-best Warriors (49-9): They want the No. 1 seed in the West. Oh, and a championship.

Durant sat out with a bruised left hand. He injured his pinkie in the first quarter of a 123-113 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, and X-rays were negative. He practiced Friday with his left hand heavily taped and still had some discomfort Saturday.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 16 points in the Nets’ 16th straight defeat.

Nate Robinson goes through players’ legs to get out of double team in D-League

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Nate Robinson is trying to make an NBA comeback by starting in the D-League, playing for the Delaware 87ers, the affiliate of the Sixers.

They were going up against the Raptors’ affiliate when Robinson was trapped on the wing by a double-team — so he literally went between the legs of 7’3″ Walter Tavares and drove out of it. He got into the lane and was fouled.

If a pass between the legs is a nutmeg, what exactly is that?

This is my new favorite highlight of the year.

Carmelo Anthony’s jumper with 0.3 seconds left gives Knicks 110-109 win over 76ers

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NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony made a jumper with 0.3 seconds left to give the New York Knicks a 110-109 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

The Knicks blew a 17-point lead and fell behind by one when Jahlil Okafor scored with 9 seconds remaining. But Anthony dribbled left after a timeout, pulling up over Robert Covington to cap his 37-point performance.

The Knicks then intercepted the 76ers’ inbounds pass to hold on and snap their two-game losing streak.

Derrick Rose added 18 points and Justin Holiday had 14 for the Knicks, who won for just the third time in 11 games. They played without starters Kristaps Porzingis (sprained right ankle) and Joakim Noah (sore left hamstring).

Okafor had a season-high 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the 76ers nearly pulled out the victory after beating Washington on Friday. Dario Saric had 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Covington finished with 20 points and 10 boards.

The Knicks avoided falling behind the 76ers into 13th place in the Eastern Conference, but they seem to realize it might be too late to get ahead of the teams they need to. They came in five games behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot, and coach Jeff Hornacek before the game talked of players’ development as a goal instead of trying to make a playoff push.

Before the game, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said his experience was that teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back usually started quickly before getting fatigued. But it was the Knicks was started fast thanks to Anthony, who was 7 for 10 for 17 points as New York led 31-25.

The Knicks led by 10 at halftime and Rose scored 10 in the third to keep Philadelphia from cutting into it. The Sixers were still down double digits well into the fourth quarter before Okafor and T.J. McConnell led them in what became a frantic finish.

TIP-INS

76ers: Philadelphia had won four of its previous five games. … The Sixers have dropped six straight at Madison Square Garden.

Knicks: Hornacek said Porzingis was considered day-to-day, with a possibility of returning in their next game Monday. But he said Noah would be out longer after having a setback in his recovery during the break. … Noah celebrated his 32nd birthday.

TWEETS

Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson tweeted for just the fourth time this season on Saturday, wishing Tex Winter a happy 95th birthday. Winter was his former assistant coach and is considered the pioneer of the triangle offense. Jackson ended the tweet with a triangle emoji.

SPEAKING OF THE TRIANGLE

The Knicks have started running it more, according to Hornacek. He says it not only benefits the younger players on offense but also helps the Knicks be in better position to get back on defense. The Knicks ran the offense that Jackson used to win 11 championships as a coach under Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis the previous two seasons, but Hornacek had opened up the offense this season to get the Knicks playing quicker.

UP NEXT

76ers: Host Golden State on Monday.

Knicks: Host Toronto on Monday. The Raptors have won the last five meetings.