From Comcast SportsNetMILWAUKEE (AP) -- Ryan Braun skipped the Milwaukee Brewers' fan festival last January, remaining mostly quiet while he waited for a decision in his appeal of a 50-game suspension under baseball's drug policy.What a difference a year makes.The 2011 NL MVP was on hand Sunday as the Brewers held their annual winter party just weeks before the team is scheduled to report to spring training. And the focus was on Milwaukee's inexperienced rotation and carrying over last season's strong finish, not on his rocky stretch from a year ago."There's always so much optimism this time of year but I think there are more unknowns than this time last year because of the lack of experience with our starting pitchers," Braun said. "Last year, (Zack) Greinke and (Shaun) Marcum were guys with longer track records but this group is very talented. There's a lot of uncertainty but certainly a lot of talent."Well off the pace in the NL Central, the Brewers traded Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels last July. Marcum was bothered by right elbow tightness for much of the season, then signed with the New York Mets over the winter.Now Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers are part of a youthful group poised to take on a bigger role, and Chris Narveson likely will be back in the rotation if he's fully recovered from shoulder surgery that ended his 2012 season after just two starts."It's no different than when we went with our young positional players: Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Ricky Weeks, Prince Fielder," general manager Doug Melvin said. "The reason we got Greinke and (Randy) Wolf a couple years ago was to bide time to give our younger guys the ability to develop in the big leagues. Now it's their time to do it on the big league level."Marco Estrada, there's only two guys with a better walks to strikeouts ratio in the major leagues. Michael Fiers had a better strikeouts per nine innings than a whole list of quality pitchers. I'm banking on some of their performance of last year in August and September."A year ago, the Brewers were coming off one of their most successful seasons since the franchise moved to Milwaukee. Braun and Fielder combined to lead the Brewers to the 2011 NL Central title and an appearance in the league championship series.But Fielder signed a big free-agent deal with Detroit last January and Braun was hounded by the suspension for much of last winter. He tested positive for elevated testosterone levels but arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in favor of the slugger due to chain of custody issues involving the sample, throwing out the penalty during spring training.Braun responded with another monster season, hitting .319 with 112 RBIs and leading the NL in home runs (41), total bases (356) and OPS (.987). He finished second in NL MVP voting behind Giants star Buster Posey.The left fielder anchors a lineup that returns almost completely intact after leading the National League in home runs, RBIs, runs, stolen bases and extra-base hits -- quite the impressive feat for the first season since Fielder left. First baseman Corey Hart will miss the start of the season due to a right knee injury, but is expected to play this year."When Ryan is healthy, Ryan can have a better year than he had last year and a better year than he had the year before," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He's capable of doing that. We need to keep him on the field and keep him healthy."Braun is one of 14 members of the Brewers' organization slated for the World Baseball Classic. Pool play for the international competition begins in early March."It's a tremendous honor to represent your country," said Braun, who was born in Mission Hills, Calif., and played college ball at the University of Miami. "You don't know how many opportunities you'll get to do that -- this tournament only happens once every four years, and four years from now who knows -- for all of us -- what our health situation will be, where we'll be in the game, whether we'll even get an opportunity to be invited."For me, I think it was a no-brainer. As long as I was healthy, it was something I was definitely going to do."While the majority of Milwaukee's position players are back, the pitching staff is full of question marks. The Brewers completely rebuilt their bullpen, save for closer John Axford and setup man Jim Henderson. Veterans Mike Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny and Burke Badenhop will fill some of the innings, with a crop of prospects expected to fill the rest along with rounding out the rotation.A couple of the young players got valuable experience last season after Milwaukee slumped to a 54-66 record on Aug. 19. The Brewers went 27-13 to finish the year.Braun thinks that experience will help in 2013."You've already seen them succeed at the highest level," he said. "It's one thing to be a prospect and have success in the minor leagues but to see Rogers and Peralta come up, Fiers, what he did all year ... to see all those guys come up and succeed at this level, it gives us as a team confidence that they can produce, succeed and thrive at this level."
BOSTON – The New York Knicks have been in a massive funk of late, something the Boston Celtics had to know which, not surprisingly, would result in them playing with a heightened level of desperation.
That desperation left the Celtics a bit exasperated at the half which ended with a 10-2 run by New York that put them ahead 63-54 at the half.
After falling behind by as many as nine points in the second quarter, the Celtics rallied to within a single point (53-52) following a basket by Isaiah Thomas.
The second quarter was all-New York afterwards.
It was just a one-possession game (Boston led 34-31) for the Celtics going into the second quarter, which was exactly where Boston didn’t want to be against a Knicks team whose bench ranks among the NBA’s highest-scoring second units recently. In their last three games, the Knicks’ bench has averaged 43.0 points per game which according to hoopsstats.com, ranks sixth in the NBA during that span.
At the half, they had 33 points compared to just 12 for Boston’s backups.
Boston fell behind early 9-5, but the Celtics rallied following a time-out with a 15-4 run capped off by a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas.
The Celtics’ lead peaked at nine points on separate occasions in the first, but the Knicks closed out the first with a 12-6 spurt that cut Boston’s lead to 34-31 at the end of the first.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.
The former league MVP looked like his old self tonight instead of just old. He led the Knicks with 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
The Knicks had great success inside the paint against all the Celtics minus Thomas who did much of his dirty work offensively on drives to the basket. At the half he had 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
Boston had problems rebounding the ball, and Hernangomez was the main reason why. At the half he had 10 points and six rebounds, three of which were offensive boards.
Dealing with Carmelo Anthony is enough to keep Crowder busy tonight. But he’s doing that at a high level in addition to providing a nice punch offensively with 14 points.
You may not know his name, but his game was pretty impressive in the first half. At the half, he had nine points.
We’ve seen him air-ball a 3-pointer, miss a lay-up and strguggle to get any shots to go down tonight. At the half, he had three points while missing nine of his 10 shot attempts.
BOSTON – Both New York and Boston will take to the floor tonight minus a starter courtesy of a sore Achilles injury.
For Celtics guard Avery Bradley, tonight will be the fifth time in the last six games that his right Achilles injury will keep him sidelined.
Meanwhile, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis will miss his fourth straight game with a sore left Achilles injury.
The 7-foot-3 Porzingis averages 19.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
Porzingis’ absence tonight was established well before tip-off.
“I’d say I’m 90 percent ready; still not there yet,” Porzingis told reporters prior to the game. “But I’m getting closer … hopefully the next game or after the next game.”
As far as Bradley is concerned, he was a last-minute matter.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about his roster earlier tonight, and indicated Tyler Zeller (sinus) and James Young (ankle) would be on the inactive list tonight with injuries.
Without Bradley, the Celtics are expected to start Marcus Smart who has filled in as the team’s starter previously when the 6-foot-2 Bradley was unavailable.
Bradley is the Celtics' second-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game this season, along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists.