From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Free agent slugger Hideki Matsui retired Thursday from professional baseball, saying he is no longer able to perform at the level that made him a star in two countries.The 2009 World Series MVP with the New York Yankees and a three-time Central League MVP with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants struggled in a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Rays last season and recently made up his mind to call it a career after 20 years -- the first 10 in Japan.Despite choosing to make the announcement in New York because the city was special to him, the nearly hour-long news conference was conducted only in Japanese and was broadcast live to his home country, where it was 7 a.m. Friday. A Japanese reporter translated portions of the event for the four American baseball writers in attendance.Before he left for New York in 2003, Matsui told his fans in Japan that he would give his life to playing in the major leagues, give whatever he had, the reporter said. "Today is the day he put a period to that."In front of more than 15 cameras and dozens of Japanese reporters, many of whom detailed every aspect of his career in the United States, the outfielderdesignated hitter gave a 12-minute speech before answering questions for about 40 minutes more, betraying little emotion except for that sly smile he flashed during his playing days.Nicknamed Godzilla, Matsui was already perhaps the most popular player of his generation in Japan when he signed a three-year, 21 million contract with the Yankees.While Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki appeared to shy away from the attention, Matsui walked right into the spotlight and embraced the scrutiny.Playing for the Yankees was, "one of the best things that happened to him in his life," the Japanese reporter quoted Matsui as saying.No. 55 was a monster for New York, too. Always cool under pressure, Matsui hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium and matched a World Series record with six RBIs in his pinstripe finale seven years later -- during the clinching Game 6 of the 2009 Series."I've had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "Despite being shadowed by a large group of reporters, having the pressures of performing for his fans both in New York and Japan and becoming acclimated to the bright lights of New York City, he always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with. I have a lot of respect for Hideki."In his career with New York, Matsui made two All-Star teams and hit .292 with 140 doubles and 597 RBIs. He played in his first 518 major league games after playing in 1,250 straight games in Japan.In his first remarks after breaking his wrist and ending that streak in 2006, he apologized for getting hurt. Matsui returned four months later and went 4 for 4.Matsui was known for being stoic but he also had a sense of humor, and he got a good laugh Thursday, telling the crowd that he doesn't like to use the word "retirement" because he will play pick-up baseball.Still, Matsui ruled out competing this year in the World Baseball Classic or joining a team in Japan again."He was not confident he'd be able to play at the level he played at 10 years ago," the reporter said.In fact, Matsui still has not decided on what to do next.Matsui hit 21 homers for the Los Angeles Angels in 2010 after New York didn't offer him a new contract, but his numbers fell off considerably after that. He slumped to .147 (14 for 95) with the Rays in 37 games before being released.Overall, Matsui batted .282 with 175 homers and 760 RBIs for the Yankees, Angels, Oakland Athletics and Rays. In Japan he had a .304 career average with 332 homers and 889 RBIs in 1,268 games."Hideki Matsui, in many ways, embodied what this organization stands for. He was dedicated to his craft, embraced his responsibilities to his team and fans, and elevated his play when he was needed the most," Yankees general managing partner Hal Steinbrenner said. "He did all these things with a humility that was distinctly his own, which is why he was such a big part of our success and why he will always be a cherished member of the Yankees family."Matsui said he first started thinking about the Yankees when he became a professional and his manager with the Giants told him to aspire to be a player like former New York center fielder Joe DiMaggio.Then in 1999 -- three years from free agency -- Matsui went to Yankee Stadium to watch a game and was "astonished" at the level of play. He thought to himself that he would "like to become a player that would be capable of playing at Yankee Stadium," the reporter translated.Matsui arrived in New York after a season in which he hit 50 homers for the most well-known team in Japan, and fit right in."Hideki came to the Yankees as a superstar and immediately became a team favorite. Not only for his talent but for the unselfishness he brought to the game every day," said MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre, who was Matsui's manager for his first five seasons in New York. "Hideki Matsui is a winner and I was proud to be his manager."
BOSTON – The Celtics used a blistering run in the second quarter to propel them to a 50-42 lead over the Toronto Raptors after two quarters of play.
It was the second straight game the Celtics had to play without their leading scorer Isaiah Thomas who remains out indefinitely with a right groin injury.
As was the case in Boston’s 30-point win at Orlando, Avery Bradley took it upon himself to pick up some of the scoring slack as he leads the Celtics with 13 points at the half.
Boston also got strong play in the first half from Al Horford who set the tone with a pair of 3’s in the first few minutes of the game. He would score eight first-half points to go with three rebounds.
And then there was the Celtics bench seemingly picking up where they left off in Orlando.
Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier were once again making their impact early and often as they scored seven and four points, respectively.
The game was relatively close until Boston, leading 32-31, went on a 14-0 run.
But the Raptors, once again among the top teams in the East, were able to outscore Boston 11-5 the rest of the second quarter which cut Boston’s led at the half down to eight points.
Here’s a look at the first half Stars, Studs and Duds from tonight’s game.
Showing some serious two-way game tonight, Bradley was scoring the ball well in addition to doing a better-than-average job defensively on DeMar DeRozan. At the half, Bradley had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three rebounds and two assists.
He’s an All-Star but this kid doesn’t get enough credit for his talent. The Celtics had problems with him for large chunks of the first half as he led all Toronto scorers with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
Very active at both ends of the floor, making the most of his chance to see extended minutes. At the half he had seven points along with two rebounds.
This was one of the more active games we’ve seen Olynyk play in, especially when it came to rebounding. At the half he had five points and seven rebounds.
He helped Toronto get off to a solid start, and finished the half with seven points.
He had eight points at the half, but the Celtics made him work a lot harder for it than he’s used to as DeRozan shot just 4-for-12 from the field.
BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas, out for the second straight game with a right groin injury, is hoping to be back in the lineup by Wednesday’s game at San Antonio.
But the Celtics may find themselves having to save the 5-foot-9 from himself on this one.
“When I talked to Ed (Lacerte, the team’s head trainer) over the last 24-48 hours they said it’s usually 10 days to two weeks for an injury like this,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters.
“But again we're talking about Isaiah being pretty ambitious in his return,” Stevens said. “He's been getting treatment around the clock so we'll see. He'll be officially listed as day-to-day.”
When asked about how he was feeling prior to the game, Thomas said, “I’m not that good because I can’t play (tonight). It’s getting better. It hasn’t gotten worse and I’m just working as hard as I can to get back on the court.”
At a Christmas event earlier this week, Thomas said he was planning to travel with the Celtics when they play at Oklahoma City on Sunday and at San Antonio on Wednesday.
But he didn’t sound as optimistic when asked about it on Friday.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll probably know tonight.”
If the Celtics have ruled him out for Sunday’s game against the Thunder, it would make more sense for him to stay in Boston and continue to rehab his groin. And if he’s feeling better to the point where he becomes a game-time decision, he could meet the team in San Antonio.
“I’m going to take it day-by-day,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, I can play in the next few games and we'll see what happens. Today I feel a lot better than I have since I (suffered) the injury so we'll see maybe in next couple of days. I'm shooting for Wednesday."
As much as Thomas wants to be back on the floor quickly, he understands that he must listen to his body as well as the Celtics’ medical folks who have consistently brought back players only after they pass a series of rigorous physical tests that leave little doubt about a player’s readiness to return to action.
“Our medical staff is great and he trusts them,” Stevens said. “But also, nobody knows his body better than him. They feel like he's not looking (to be sidelined) long-term. It's not going to be a long-term thing for sure. We got to make sure not to bring him back tonight or too soon.”
Thomas is averaging a career-high 26.0 points per game in addition to being Boston’s leaders in assists with 6.2 per game.