Another new starting lineup for Celtics

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Another new starting lineup for Celtics

MILWAUKEE Doc Rivers' search for the ideal starting lineup will take yet another twist tonight with the C's unveiling a third different starting five.

Jason Terry and Brandon Bass will be with the first unit, joining All-Stars Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

"Looking for a group that can play 48 minutes," Rivers said when asked about the change. "We've yet to find that. So we'll just keep searching for that."

The move gives the Celtics arguably their strongest starting five in terms of scoring.

In addition, it will allow Jeff Green to come off the bench and potentially be more of a focal point scoring the ball with two of the players he had been competing with for shots - Bass and Terry - with the first group now.

Ditto for Courtney Lee, who started each of the first five games but may be more comfortable coming off the bench.

In the preseason, Lee's best games came as a reserve for Boston.

What remains unclear in the change is how it will improve the significant drop-off by the Celtics when Garnett is subbed out.

Now that Bass is starting, Boston can immediately turn to either Jared Sullinger or Chris Wilcox to provide an inside presence in place of Garnett when he is subbed out in the first quarter.

"We sub Kevin so early because we have to," Rivers said. "That group is still on the floor. We just feel like we need more scoring to stay on the floor when Kevin goes out."

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.

Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, though. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.