From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Trying to get under baseball's luxury tax by 2014, the New York Yankees don't mind spending big as long as it's on one-year deals.New York filled one of the slots in its rotation Tuesday, agreeing to a 15 million, one-year contract with No. 2 starter Hiroki Kuroda as they await a decision from Andy Pettitte on whether he wants to return in 2013."It something that I think fits how we've operated here in the last number of years, to do short-term circumstances on high-end players," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.The Yankees will pay the luxury tax on high payrolls for the 10th straight season this year and will hand over more tax money in 2013. But they say they want to get under 2014's threshold of 189 million, which would enable them to get some of their revenue-sharing dollars back. That's why a one-year deal made sense for Kuroda, a right-hander who turns 38 in February.He was the Yankees' most consistent pitcher during the regular season. He went 16-11, tying for the team lead in wins, and led New York with 33 starts and 219 2-3 innings.Cashman called the agreement "a relief.""Hiroki Kuroda chose us on a lesser deal last year and I suspect he's done the same again this year," Cashman said. "By coming here, I suspect that he left money on the table. I suspect it was a very aggressive market on him, and I think it is a reflection of he really enjoyed playing here for this city, for this team, for this organization and with these teammates to come back under the circumstances he's coming back on."After losing six of his first nine decisions, Kuroda finished with a 3.32 ERA that was second among New York starters behind Pettitte's 2.87."I am very happy and excited to re-sign with the Yankees," Kuroda said in a statement. "I am very grateful for all of the interest and all of the offers that I received from the various teams that courted me. It was a tough decision for me to make, but at the end of the day, I wanted to try to win a championship with the teammates that I went to battle with last season."Kuroda joined the Yankees after four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was given a 10 million base salary last season and earned 1 million more in performance bonuses based on innings. He turned down a 13.3 million qualifying offer from the Yankees, and he would have cost a new team a selection in June's amateur draft.He joins CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova in the Yankees' projected starting rotation for next season, with David Phelps also a possibility.Pettitte, who came out of retirement to rejoin the Yankees, hasn't decided whether he wants to play next year. Cashman won't say how long he'll wait."Of course, obviously, there's an answer to that question but not one I'm prepared to answer," he said.NOTES:Cashman said SS Derek Jeter is progressing from surgery to repair his broken ankle. "By opening day he's supposed to be ready and full speed," he said. ... Cashman is talking with Mariano Rivera about a new contract and doesn't have any concerns about the closer's recovery from a torn knee ligament. Rivera turns 43 next week. "Mo's never failed. He's never had a failure in his career," Cashman said. ... RHP Michael Pineda, recovering from shoulder surgery, isn't being counted on for the start of the season. He threw on flat ground at Yankee Stadium last week. "He had zip on it," Cashman said.
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Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.
On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.
Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.
They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).
Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.
It’s their finish that needs work.
Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences.
Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.
Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.
“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”
And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.
“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”
And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.
Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.
He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.
“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”
The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.
“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”
It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.
Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.
He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.
“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”