NBA

* Free agent Josh Smith, released by the Detroit Pistons this week, joined the Rockets yesterday in a move aimed at strengthening Houston's frontcourt.

The signing was announced by general manager Daryl Morey and

reunites the 6-9 forward with AAU teammate and longtime friend Dwight Howard, who is in his second season in Houston.

Smith should provide a boost for a team that has played the last 23 games without starting power forward Terrence Jones. Jones averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds last season, but is out indefinitely with nerve inflammation in his left leg.

Smith signed a 4-year, $54 million contract with Detroit in July 2013.

He has averaged 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds during his 11-year career, nine seasons of which he spent with Atlanta.

* Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao had surgery to repair a torn left Achilles' tendon and will miss the rest of the season. He was hurt Tuesday night againt Minnesota, battling for a rebound. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving was sidelined last night against Orlando with a bruised knee.

* Knicks forward Quincy Acy was suspended one game without pay by the NBA for his flagrant foul against Washington's John Wall in a game on Christmas.

* Guard Tony Parker missed the Spurs' game against against New Orleans with the lingering effects of a left hamstring strain.

* Kobe Bryant sat out his third straight game to rest his sore body, missing the Lakers' game at Dallas. Bryant, 36, has said his knees, feet, back and Achilles' tendons are all sore.

Baseball

* The Nationals agreed to terms with second baseman Dan Uggla for a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training. Uggla played in four games with San Francisco this year after being cut by Atlanta after the All-Star break. Uggla, 34, finished the year batting .194. The Braves still owe him $13 million for 2015. The Nationals also signed reliever Heath Bell, 37. The three-time All-Star has 168 career saves.

* Joe Macko, who hit 306 home runs in nearly 2,000 minor league games before a long career as a clubhouse manager with the Texas Rangers, died at age 86.

- Daily News wire services