The Celtics retired Paul Pierce’s No. 34 Sunday after Boston’s game against the Cavaliers. The No. 10 pick from the 1998 draft spent the first 15 years of his career in Boston and won the 2008 Finals MVP, after leading the Celtics to their league-record 17th championship by beating the Lakers in six games. The 10-time All-Star ranks in the top 10 in franchise history in games played, made field goals, rebounds, assists and blocks, is second in points behind only John Havlicek and is the franchise leader in made three-pointers, made free throws and steals. He spent two years in Brooklyn, one in Washington and one with the Clippers to close out his 19-year career, but during the summer he signed a one-day contract with Boston to retire a Celtic. In his first time back in Boston since retiring and joining ESPN, the Celtics honored Pierce with a tribute video. Sunday Pierce’s No. 34 finally went up into the rafters in TD Garden.
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) February 12, 2018
Pierce’s former teammates Antoine Walker, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo were in attendance for the ceremony, along with Pierce’s former coach in Boston and with the Clippers, Doc Rivers. Pierce will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2020.
Guard Marco Belinelli has committed to the Philadelphia 76ers to sign a free agent contract. Belinelli agreed to a buyout with the Atlanta Hawks, and can sign with the Sixers upon clearing waivers. Belinelli was an accessory in the deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Atlanta Hawks this past offseason, and the 31-year-old shooting guard never seemed to be part of the team’s long-term plans. That said, he put up some solid numbers as a reserve for the Hawks this season (11.4 PPG, 37.2 3PT% in 23.3 MPG), and received offers from several teams before signing with the Sixers. As an 11-year veteran, Belinelli is a solid – and cheap – late-season addition to a rather thin 76ers’ second unit. This signing (which can’t officially take place until Belinelli clears waivers on Monday) virtually guarantees that Jerryd Bayless will rack up a few more DNP-CDs, and it also serves as insurance in case Markelle Fultz doesn’t return this season.
All-Star point guard Damian Lillard was the latest to speak highly of the 21-year-old stating that he believes Mitchell should win the Rookie of the Year award. For much of the season, Philadelphia 76ers rookie point guard Ben Simmon has been viewed as the frontrunner for the award, but Mitchell has been making an impressive push over the last couple of months earning the Western Conference Rookie of the Month honor for both December and January. In fact, this made him the first Jazz rookie since Trey Burke back in the 2013-14 campaign to earn that accolade multiple times in a season. Mitchell proved to an offensive spark plug for the Jazz in the month of January averaging 22.2 points per game while tallying eight games with 20-or-more points and two contests with at least 30 points. He also became the first rookie since Andrew Wiggins to register at least 280 points, 40 rebounds, and 40 assists in the month of January. Mitchell was just as impactful in the month prior posting a career-high 41 points against the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 1, which set the Jazz rookie record while making him the first in the NBA to post that performance since Blake Grifin in 2011. On top of that, both are the only active players to record multiple 40-point outings in their rookie campaigns. The former Louisville product put that on display against the Trail Blazers on Sunday night scoring a team-high 27 points in the win, which pushed his league-best rookie marks to 26 games with 20-or-more points and 121 made 3-pointers this season. He has certainly been one of the NBA’s biggest surprises that have earned the praise of many of the league’s best players in LeBron James, Chris Paul, Paul George, Stephen Curry, James Harden, and DeMarcus Cousins. If Mitchell can continue on this offensive pace in the second half of the season, there is no reason to believe he can’t seriously challenge for the Rookie of the Year plum.
Nick Gilbert, son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, was facing major brain surgery this week in a hospital in or near Detroit. Gilbert, now 21, is best known by NBA fans for the role he played in 2011, when he represented the team and brought home the draft pick that was used to land All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin pulled together a brief report on the younger Gilbert’s health challenge: “Gilbert’s son was born with neurofibromatosis, commonly referred to as NF, a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body at any time. Nick Gilbert entered into basketball fans’ collective consciousness as a 14-year-old when he served as the Cavs’ representative at the 2011 NBA Lottery wearing a bowtie and thick, dark-rimmed glasses. He was dubbed the franchise’s good luck charm when they won the No. 1 pick. He has already been through one life-saving brain surgery more than 10 years ago and has been treated by chemotherapy on and off for 15 years. Nick is one of Dan Gilbert’s five children and attends Michigan State University, his father’s alma mater.”