B.J. Upton finds himself a new team

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B.J. Upton finds himself a new team

From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- Free-agent outfielder B.J. Upton and the Atlanta Braves have agreed to a 75.25 million, five-year contract, a person familiar with the deal said Wednesday night.The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been completed. It is expected to be announced Thursday once Upton passes his physical.Upton's deal would be the biggest free-agent contract of the offseason so far and the largest in Braves history.The 28-year-old Upton hit .246 with 28 homers, 78 RBIs and 31 stolen bases for Tampa Bay last season. He will replace free agent Michael Bourn as the Braves' center fielder and provide a needed right-handed power bat for the lineup.Upton made his debut with Tampa Bay in 2004. His first full season was 2007, when he hit a career-best .300 with 24 homers and 22 stolen bases.The speedy outfielder's home run totals have increased in each of the last three seasons, but he has hit below .250 with more than 150 strikeouts in four straight years.Bourn was the Braves' leadoff hitter, but Upton is not expected to fill that role. The Braves might shop for a left fielder to hit leadoff, with Martin Prado expected to move from the outfield to third base following Chipper Jones' retirement.Young shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who hit .289 with a .335 on-base percentage as a rookie, could be an option to bat leadoff. Prado was the normal No. 2 hitter.The deal with Upton comes only five days before the start of baseball's winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.Upton is an expensive addition, but the big move is not a surprise.General manager Frank Wren said after the season he would have funds available to make a notable offseason acquisition. Jones had a 14 million base salary last season and Bourn's was 6,845,000.Wren said he entered the offseason with "a pretty narrow focus" because he only had to replace Bourn and Jones."Beyond that, our club is pretty solid," Wren said after the Braves' wild-card playoff loss to St. Louis.Upton adds to what Wren said is a "dynamic young core" of players. He will join first baseman Freddie Freeman, right fielder Jason Heyward, catcher Brian McCann and second baseman Dan Uggla as power hitters.McCann's status for the start of the season is uncertain. He had surgery on his right shoulder in October. The rehabilitation could carry into the first month of the season.Gerald Laird signed a two-year, 3 million deal with Atlanta earlier this month to serve as McCann's backup. Laird, who hit .282 with AL champion Detroit, could open the season as the starter if McCann is not ready.

No late-game heroics for Celtics as they lose to Knicks, 117-106

No late-game heroics for Celtics as they lose to Knicks, 117-106

BOSTON – Lately, shots seemed to fall for just about every player the Boston Celtics put on the floor. You knew sooner or later, Boston would have one of those nights when those same shots wouldn’t fall.

And then there’s the New York Knicks at the opposite end of that spectrum, a team that was overdue for a good night of basketball after having lost 11 of their previous 13 games.

Both worlds collided on Wednesday night, resulting in a 117-106 loss for the Celtics.

Not even the usual late-game scoring heroics of Isaiah Thomas could save the Celtics this time. He led all scorers with 39 points but only eight came in the fourth.  

Trailing 88-83 going into the fourth quarter, Boston (26-16) had been within striking distance on a number of occasions earlier in the night, only to have the Knicks (19-24) rebuff them with a made basket, or a rebound or a rebound that led to a made basket.

It was that kind of game for the Celtics, seemingly playing uphill most of the night.

No player exhibited Boston’s struggles more than Al Horford.

The four-time All-Star had arguably his worst game as a Celtic, scoring just five points while missing 12 of his 14 field goal attempts.  

Even though Boston spent most of the game trailing, it was hard to not think the Celtics would do what we’ve seen them do time and time again of late and that’s find a way to win in the fourth quarter.

After all, the fourth quarter has been good to the Celtics – especially Isaiah Thomas.

He leads the NBA in fourth quarter points at 10.1 per game, the kind of fourth quarter scoring the league has never seen before.

But Thomas never found any kind of late-game rhythm, a similar experience felt by most of his teammates.

It wasn’t just bad shooting that ultimately sunk the Celtics.

Rebounding, which has been a problem for them all season, was a major factor in Wednesday’s outcome as well.

For the game, New York out-rebounded Boston 57-33. Many of those boards were on the offensive glass which was a major factor in the Knicks holding a 24-12 advantage on second-chance points.

And as impressive as Thomas has been in elevating his game in the fourth quarter this season, the Knicks were being led by an equally determined Derrick Rose.

The former league MVP looked like his old self instead of just old, dribble-driving his way in and out of the paint, raising up for stop-on-the-dime jumpers. He would finish with a team-high 30 points.

The Celtics led 34-31 after the first quarter, but spent most of the night afterwards playing catchup to a New York Knicks team that came in having lost 11 of its previous 13 games.

NOTE

Both Boston and New York were missing key players with a sore Achilles injury. For the Celtics, they were without Avery Bradley (right Achilles) and the Knicks were missing Kristaps Porzingis (left Achilles).

Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

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Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the aftermath of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video. Curran interview Matt Light ahead of the AFC Championship. They dissect the press conferences of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and look at how to beat the Steelers.

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2:29 Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live aftermath

13:14 Stopping Le’Veon Bell

27:16 heywassyonumba? with Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy

32:30 Injury report updates for AFC Championship

36:51 Brady and Belichick’s press conferences

44:50 Matt Light interview