National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Harvin excited for Super Bowl chance with Seattle

RENTON, Wash. (AP) With all the setbacks Percy Harvin has faced in his first season with Seattle, it would be easy to dwell on the problems.

Harvin is trying not to linger on the past, whether it was his hip surgery and recovery that kept him out of 15 of 16 regular-season games or the concussion that left him a spectator for the NFC championship game.

Not with the Seahawks headed for a Super Bowl matchup against Denver.

"It's been a roller coaster, but it's all been a blessing. I wouldn't take anything back that happened this year. It's made me a stronger person," Harvin said on Thursday. "It's definitely been frustrating for a lot of people, not only myself but my teammates. Doug (Baldwin), some of the guys playing my position, not knowing whether I'm going to be at practice. So it was definitely frustrating but it's all over now. We get to play for the Super Bowl. That's all in the past."

Harvin returned to practice Wednesday after passing the league's concussion protocol following the concussion he suffered in the NFC divisional playoff game against New Orleans. The injury was the latest bump in a season filled with starts and stops for Harvin.

First was the trade from Minnesota and a lucrative contract with Seattle. Then came the discovery of a damaged labrum in his hip that required surgery in early August and caused him to miss the first 10 games of the regular season.

When he returned in Week 11, Harvin was used sparingly, but the amount was too much for his hip and complications followed. He returned for the playoffs and was a significant part of Seattle's game plan against the Saints in the divisional round when the next setback hit. Harvin's head bounced off the turf of CenturyLink Field after leaping for a pass in the end zone in the second quarter of Seattle's 23-15 win.

And again, Harvin was left to be a spectator.

"Frustrating. That's the word that I'll use. This whole year watching every single game was frustrating," Harvin said. "But like I said having great teammates, great coaches it was good to be on the sideline and watch those guys perform."

Hitting his head on the turf, just as New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins was hitting him in the back, was the second big hit Harvin took against the Saints. He said Thursday he did not believe he was being targeted. Harvin was hit by safety Rafael Bush in the first quarter of the game, a hit that drew a 15-yard penalty and a $21,000 fine from the NFL.

"I thought they were just playing football," said Harvin, who said his history with migraines had no influence on the speed of his recovery from the concussion.

The opportunities Harvin got against the Saints showed just what he could add to Seattle's offense. He was used as a runner on a sweep to the perimeter that went for 9 yards and could have gone for more. Seattle tried to find him on deep routes down the seam of the defense and also underneath crossing patterns.

He was also a successful decoy. On Marshawn Lynch's 15-yard touchdown run against the Saints, Harvin faked that he was about to catch a screen pass. The defense reacted and Lynch had a cutback lane open en route to the end zone.

"Last year when we prepared for Percy, there were just so many things that we had to look for in a guy like him," Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said. "It's a guy that can be in the backfield, a guy that can be split out at receiver, it's just so many ways you can use him."

Despite all the setbacks, Harvin's not viewing the Super Bowl as an opportunity to salvage his season.

"I'm trying to go out there and win a Super Bowl. I'm not trying to save or be a hero or do anything," Harvin said. "I'm trying to go out there and prepare to play a game I know how to play."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Knicks' Bargnani out with torn left elbow ligament

NEW YORK (AP) The New York Knicks say forward Andrea Bargnani has a torn ligament in his left elbow and is out indefinitely.

Bargnani was hurt Wednesday during a 110-106 loss to Philadelphia when he landed hard while attempting to dunk. He had an MRI on Thursday that revealed the injury.

It's the latest injury for the Knicks (15-27), who have lost five in a row and have battled injuries all season. They are already missing forwards Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin from their frontcourt because of sprained left ankles.

Bargnani is averaging 13.3 points, second on the team, in his first season in New York. The Knicks acquired the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft from Toronto during the summer.

Tiger opens with a 72 on tough South Course

SAN DIEGO (AP) The best score belonged to Stewart Cink. The best round belonged to Pat Perez. Tiger Woods didn't come close to claiming either Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Cink ran off three straight birdies late in his round on the easier North Course at Torrey Pines for an 8-under 64. That gave him a one-shot lead over Gary Woodland. Perez had a 67 on the South Course, which is by far the tougher track. The South Course, which hosted a U.S. Open, played nearly four shots harder.

In his 2014 debut, Woods opened with a 72 on the South. He failed to birdie any of the par 5s. It was the first time in his career he failed to break par in the first round of this tournament.

Brewers in talks with free agent RHP Matt Garza

MILWAUKEE (AP) The Brewers say they're in talks with free agent Matt Garza to fortify their pitching staff.

Milwaukee issued a statement Thursday evening following reports of a $52 million, four-year agreement between the Brewers and the 30-year-old right-hander, pending a physical.

The statement says "despite media reports, negotiations between the Brewers and Matt Garza are ongoing, but there is no deal yet."

Garza would join Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse to form what could be a solid rotation top. Garza went 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA last year for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, striking out 136 in 155 1-3 innings.

Balfour gets $12 million, 2-year deal from Rays

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Rays couldn't resist adding Grant Balfour to solidify the back end of their bullpen, giving the closer a $12 million, two-year contract Thursday about a month after his $15 million agreement with Baltimore fell through.

The Orioles said they had concerns with his physical. Balfour proclaimed he's healthy and looking forward to helping Tampa Bay get back to the playoffs.

"I'm 100 percent healthy," Balfour said, adding he had more lucrative offers from other teams but was eager to play for a perennial contender and return to the Tampa Bay area, where he still resides after spending time with the Rays from 2007-10.

"I've had an eventful offseason to say the least," he said. "It's always been a place on my radar. I'll be honest, I never wanted to leave here."

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg made the announcement at a news conference held following a team sponsorship event at the Tampa Museum of Art.

He called it a significant move for the budget-minded Rays, who have made the playoffs four times in the past six seasons despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

Sternberg noted the team did not enter the offseason expecting to be in a position to pursue the 36-year-old, who was 62 for 67 in save opportunities the past two seasons with the Oakland Athletics.

"We've have had some exceptional teams," Sternberg said, explaining the decision to spend above the team's projected payroll. "We want to give this organization the best chance to win, and we know it's going to cost us more than we can afford to pay."

In his first stint with the Rays, Balfour was part of an improbable run to the 2008 World Series, where Tampa Bay lost to Philadelphia in six games.

Sternberg called him a "known quantity" for the Rays. Manager Joe Maddon added the signing will make an already impressive bullpen even more formidable.

"He wants to go back to the World Series," Maddon said. "So do we, so do I."

Balfour was a first-time All-Star in 2013, when he had a 1.63 ERA while going 25 for 25 in save opportunities the first half of the season.

The right-hander's 383 appearances, 380 1-3 innings and 410 strikeouts over the past six years are the second-most among AL relievers. He's first Australian-born pitcher to make an All-Star team and has been a part of five teams that made the playoffs, including two with Tampa Bay.

"I want to win a World Series," he said. "We got really close here in 2008, and I'm really hoping here in the next two years, or whatever it is I get to play here, that I can win one it would be awesome."

Tanaka says Yankees wanted him most

TOKYO (AP) Masahiro Tanaka says he chose to play for the New York Yankees because they appreciated him the most among the many teams in the majors who were chasing the prized signature of the star Japanese pitcher.

"They gave me the highest evaluation and are a world-famous team." Tanaka said at a press conference in Japan on Thursday after agreeing to a $155 million, seven-year deal with the Yankees.

Tanaka said he was "relieved" the deal was done and looked forward to standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium.

When asked what his goal will be, Tanaka's response was direct: "To become World Champions."

In addition to the personal deal with Tanaka, the Yankees must pay a $20 million fee to his Japanese team, the Rakuten Eagles.

His agreement calls for $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in 2020, and it allows him to terminate the deal after the 2017 season and become a free agent.

Asked to deliver a message to Yankee fans in English, Tanaka said he plans to let his performance on the field do the talking.

"I don't speak English so I'll just have to win the trust and confidence of the fans with my performance on the field," the 25-year-old right-hander said.

Big league teams had until Friday to reach an agreement with Tanaka, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year as the Eagles won the Japan Series title. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros all said they were among the failed bidders.

Tanaka said he consulted with 2013 Rakuten teammate Takashi Saito and Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish about life in the major leagues before deciding on the Yankees.

"Everything will be new and challenging," Tanaka said. "But I have to rely on the ability that got me this far."

Tanaka was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons with the Eagles, striking out 1,238 in 1315 innings. Yankees official has tracked him since 2007, scouting 15 of his games.

The Tanaka deal caps an offseason in which the Yankees added catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. The four big deals totaled $438 million.

"We're going to do what we've got to do to win," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We had to make sure we had enough pitching to go together with our new lineup."

Tanaka receives the highest contract for an international free agent and the fifth largest deal for a pitcher, trailing only those of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw ($215 million), Detroit's Justin Verlander ($180 million), Seattle's Felix Hernandez ($175 million) and the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia ($161 million under his original agreement with New York).

Tanaka replaces the retired Andy Pettitte in the Yankees rotation, and joins Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova.

Sanders takes Luck, Newton early in Pro Bowl draft

KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) NFL great Deion Sanders took quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Cam Newton with his first skill position picks in the Pro Bowl draft Wednesday, going for passers early before focusing on defense in building a team for one win.

Jerry Rice chose New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and then Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy with his first two picks, giving active player captain Drew Brees his top target early to go along with two Saints offensive linemen picked Tuesday.

"I wouldn't rather be with anybody else, obviously," Graham told reporters after being picked. All five Saints in the Pro Bowl ended up on Rice's team.

The picks kicked off the three-hour process of divvying up 60 players for Sunday's all-star game. The draft played out on a beachside estate used for weddings and luaus on Oahu's west side, adjacent to the plush Ko Olina resort where the players are staying for the week with their families.

About 1,000 fans attended the draft, which had cheerleaders, mascots, lei for each player and colored surfboards used as draft boards.

The game is being played in an "unconferenced" format for the first time, straying from its usual AFC vs. NFC teams. Sanders and Rice picked captains and their first 11 players each on Tuesday.

The new format is meant to liven up the Pro Bowl, which has been criticized by fans and even Commissioner Roger Goodell for the quality of play.

The draft embraces the popular hobby of fantasy football and put many players in the interesting situation of having to watch two of the NFL's biggest personalities pass them up.

"It looks like I'm waiting," Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall said after watching four receivers come off the board - including his teammate, Alshon Jeffery. "This is sad - real sad."

Sanders retorted: "Somebody get him some aspirin."

Eric Weddle, a San Diego safety who was the third safety picked, said he didn't mind having to wait in a lounge area with the other players while Sanders and Rice took 2 minutes each to make picks, with breaks for commercials in the live telecast.

"It doesn't really matter - just chilling 17 hours in here right now," Weddle said. "When it comes to Sunday, I'll be on the field in the fourth quarter and ready to wreck shop."

Defensive end Mario Williams became the first player to be assigned when he was the last player at his position off the board.

"Just be careful where you throw the ball," Williams told Brees afterward.

Williams said things played out largely how he anticipated, with teammates picking one another and Sanders playing mind games.

Other players assigned included Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle and New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski to Rice. Sanders was assigned tight ends Jordan Cameron of Cleveland and Jason Witten of Dallas, along with Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny.

"There's been some questionable picks," Posluszny said.

Quarterbacks Nick Foles and Alex Smith were the last players taken. Sanders selected Foles, and Smith was then assigned to Rice as the final pick - nine years after being the top choice overall in the NFL draft.

Rice then forced a trade on Sanders as allowed under the rules, taking Sanders' sixth-round pick of Indianapolis linebacker Robert Mathis, sending back Brian Orakpo.

Rice had said since being named captain that he wanted Mathis on his team, while Mathis and Sanders have traded jabs on Twitter after Sanders asserted he only wanted young players on his team.

Sanders picked wideouts Dez Bryant and A.J. Green, while Rice chose Josh Gordon along with Jeffery.

Luck playing for Team Sanders puts him on the same team led by his head coach in Indianapolis, Chuck Pagano. Luck said that will help him as players get accustomed to Pagano's style.

Beyond McCoy going second to Rice on Wednesday and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles being a captain for Sanders, neither manager took a running back early, preferring to pick defenders and receivers. Rice later took DeMarco Murray and Matt Forte, while Sanders took Eddie Lacy and was assigned Washington's Alfred Morris.

Li to meet surprising Cibulkova in Aussie Open final

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Li Na has advanced to her third Australian Open final and will have to beat Dominika Cibulkova to win her first title at Melbourne Park.

No. 4-seeded Li won the first give games to set up a 6-2, 6-4 win over 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in the first semifinal Thursday before No. 20-seeded Cibulkova trounced 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-2.

Li, the 2011 French Open champion, was the only major winner in the semis after the fourth-round upsets of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and defending champion Victoria Azarenka's quarterfinal loss to Radwanska.

Cibulkova has been the biggest surprise of the tournament. The diminutive Slovakian has won all but one of her matches in straight sets - her win over Maria Sharapova went to three.

She completed three of those wins in an hour or less, including her 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal victory over No. 11 Simona Halep.

But even Cibulkova was stunned that her first win in a Grand Slam semifinal took only 1 hour and 10 minutes. After Radwanska held in the third game, Cibulkova won the next eight in a dominating roll.

"To tell you the truth yes because Aga she's an unbelievable player, her defense in the game is unbelievable," Cibulkova said. "It will be my first final I just want to enjoy it, like I have every match here."

Touted as the shortest women in the top 50 at 1.61-meters (5-foot-3), Cibulkova has shocked her bigger rivals with the power in her ground strokes.

"It's something inside of me, I was born with it," she said. "It's my gift - that's how I play."

The win was a significant upset only a day after Radwanska outplayed No. 2-ranked Azarenka, who won the previous two Australian titles.

Cibulkova had lost her only previous semifinal at a major - at the 2009 French Open - and had lost four of her five previous tour-level matches against Radwanska, including a 6-0, 6-0 defeat in the Sydney final last year.

Li lost last year's Australian Open final to Azarenka, after falling over and hitting her head twice on the court. She lost the 2011 decider to Kim Clijsters.

"I think is the third time, so pretty close to the trophy," Li said. "Yeah, at least I try to not fall down this time, because last year in the final I think I played well but I only can say I was unlucky. At least I'll try to enjoy and stay healthy."

Li raced out to a 5-0 lead in 14 minutes against Bouchard while people were still entering Rod Laver Arena.

Bouchard had a lot of support in the crowd - there were people with Canadian flags painted on their faces, and a couple even wearing the national hockey jerseys.

Her own personal cheering section, the "Genie Army," serenaded her throughout the match, at one point competing directly with a group of Li's supporters across the stadium who chanted "Let's Go Li Na" in Mandarin.

Bouchard was playing only her fourth Grand Slam tournament, was seeded 30th and became just the second Canadian to reach a major semifinal.

"I think maybe she will be best player in the world. But today (I'm) so lucky," said Li, who jokingly apologized to the Genie Army. "Sorry about that. If you guys be happy, I will go home."

Li considered quitting the tour after the French Open last year, when she was beaten in the second round and was struggling with the off-court pressure. After reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, the Chinese star opted against retiring and then reached the U.S. Open semifinals. Li, who turns 32 next month, has gone another step further in Australia.

After saving a match point in the third round against Lucie Safarova, she has started all her matches aggressively.

It worked against Bouchard, who didn't win a point in her first three service games. In the second set, the pair exchanged four service breaks in the first six games before Li finally took charge.

The next rankings list will reflect a big jump for Bouchard, who was one of the few people unsurprised by her rapid improvement.

"I wouldn't say I exceeded my expectations, but I'm happy with how I did," Bouchard said. "I always want to do better. To me it's not a surprise. I've been working hard my whole life to do this - play at Grand Slams and do well. It's not an overnight thing."

NFL's top official: Welker's hit on Talib legal

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The NFL's officiating chief has cleared Broncos receiver Wes Welker of any wrongdoing for his hit that knocked Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib out of Sunday's AFC Championship.

"It was a legal hit," Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said on the NFL Network on Wednesday night.

On Monday, New England coach Bill Belichick blasted Welker for the hit, calling it "one of the worst plays" he'd seen in nearly four decades of coaching. Without mentioning his former player by name, Belichick said it "was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib, no attempt to get open." He added, "I'll let the league handle the discipline on that play."

There will be no discipline for Welker; Blandino said there was simply no infraction of the rules.

Welker, coming from the right, collided with Talib, who was running from the left to stay with his receiver, a split-second before Peyton Manning's pass went off the hands of receiver Demaryius Thomas a few yards away in the first quarter Sunday. No flag was thrown.

Talib left the game with a knee injury and didn't return, and Manning threw for 400 yards in Denver's 26-16 win that sent the top-seeded Broncos to the Super Bowl.

"The first potential foul would be for offensive pass interference; a receiver can't block downfield before the ball is touched, so the timing is important," Blandino said on his weekly appearance on the NFL Network. He noted that as "contact occurs, the ball is touched almost simultaneously. We don't have a foul for pass interference."

"The other thing, is it unnecessary roughness? Under the current rules it isn't," Blandino said. "It's not late; Talib wasn't out of the play."

Given that an injury occurred, Blandino said he expects the league's competition committee to examine the play in the offseason "and determine if there needs to be a change. But under the current rules, this is a legal play."

Welker, who had a cool relationship with Belichick before leaving New England as a free agent last offseason, hasn't been available for comment this week as the Broncos won't practice until Thursday.

But after the game, Welker said, "it was one of those plays where it's kind of a rub play and I was trying to get him to go over the top, and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided. ... It wasn't a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that."

Broncos coach John Fox responded to Belichick's stinging criticism on Monday by saying Welker is a "a great player, high integrity. I can say that we were not doing anything with intent."

At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Welker is 4 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than Talib. He's also wearing a special helmet to guard against further head injury after missing the final month of the season with his second concussion. He's also never been known as a dirty player.

Patriots safety Steve Gregory said he didn't think Welker would deliberately try to hurt a player, saying, "I don't think anybody plays that way, especially at this level of football with two great football teams in the Broncos and ourselves."

Blandino said he has spoken with Belichick this week about the play "and obviously there is a difference of opinion there and something that we'll continue to look at during the offseason."

Li Na beats Bouchard, reaches Australian final

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Li Na has reached the Australian Open final for the third time in four years with a 6-2, 6-4 win over 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.

No. 4-seeded Li, the 2011 French Open champion, is the only major winner and the highest-ranked player still in contention after the fourth-round upsets of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and defending champion Victoria Azarenka's quarterfinal loss to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.

No. 5-seeded Radwanska was playing Dominika Cibulkova in the second semifinal later Thursday.

Li, who lost last year's final to Azarenka, was aggressive from the start against Bouchard, who started nervously and didn't win a point in her first three service games.

Fittingly, she finished off the match with a backhand crosscourt, one of 16 backhand winners in the match and her biggest weapon against Bouchard.

Durant's 36 offset Parker's 37 as Thunder top Spurs

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Kevin Durant had 36 points to offset Tony Parker's season-high 37, and the Oklahoma City Thunder survived a testy 111-105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, their third win this season over the defending Western Conference champions.

Reggie Jackson had 27 points and Serge Ibaka added 14 points for Oklahoma City (33-10), which reclaimed the West's best record.

Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw scored 14 points each, Marco Belinelli had 13 points and Manu Ginobili added 10 points. Duncan added 13 rebounds, but San Antonio (32-10) struggled to overcome the loss of their top defensive stopper, Kawhi Leonard.

Durant finished 12 for 22, but struggled to get his shot off against the snug defense of the 6-foot-7 Leonard, who has a 7-4 wingspan. Leonard left the game late in the first half after sustaining a non-displaced fracture in his right hand. His status is unknown, but a similar injury is expected to sideline Danny Green for a month.

Durant scored 24 points after Leonard left the game with 3 minutes left in the first half.

The Spurs used a physical defense against Durant with Leonard out, especially when Ginobili drew the assignment. The physical play angered Durant, who twice lowered his shoulder and dropped Ginobili. Both plays resulted in non-calls, which incensed Gregg Popovich. The Spurs coach screamed at officials while Durant appeared to yell at Popovich. Popovich was assessed a technical foul, which Durant angrily sank with 1:12 to give Oklahoma City a 55-51 lead with 1:19 left in the first half.

A fight nearly broke out between Derek Fisher and Patty Mills at midcourt in the final minute when the two became entangled on the floor battling for a loose ball. The two had to be separated by teammates after rising from the pile.

There were four lead changes and six ties in the third quarter, but Oklahoma City never trailed in the fourth.

Durant bounced up and down excitedly after his 3-pointer gave Oklahoma City a 108-98 lead with just over a minute remaining.

Jackson averages 13.2 points, but has scored 23.7 points against the Spurs this season.

Jackson had 11 consecutive points early in the fourth quarter, blowing past Parker for layups to give Oklahoma City a 94-89 lead with 8 minutes left.

NOTES: Spurs C Tiago Splitter (sprained right shoulder) and W Danny Green (broken left index finger) both missed the game. . Oklahoma City is 10-4 in back-to-back games, including a 4-3 record on the second night. They have swept three back-to-backs this season. San Antonio has a 54-22 record at home over Oklahoma City. . Fun-loving Spurs forward Matt Bonner is playing along with the ribbing he is getting about the mask he must wear to protect the broken nose he sustained Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers. Duncan, who owns a vehicle customization shop, offered a custom-paint job for the clear mask and Parker joked that Bonner could "scare Durant" with it. Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News jokingly asked if the injury ends Bonner's hopes of a modeling career once his NBA days are over. "I can still be a hand model," Bonner said.

Sixers send Knicks to fifth straight loss

NEW YORK (AP) Evan Turner scored a career-high 34 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, leading the Philadelphia 76ers to a 110-106 victory over New York on Wednesday night that snapped a three-game skid and sent the Knicks to a fifth straight loss.

Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young each added 19 points for the 76ers, who won for just the second time in nine games. James Anderson finished with 18 points.

Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points after a slow start for the Knicks, who were at least competitive after losing the previous four by a combined 75 points.

They are 0-3 on their eight-game homestand that matches a franchise record and comes during what coach Mike Woodson said was pivotal to their season. But it's not helping the Knicks at all, as they started their second half with another loss after going 15-26 through the midpoint of their schedule.

With that in mind, 76ers coach Brett Brown said he expected to see an "angry team" that wanted to fix things. Instead, the Knicks started slowly and finished poorly.

After trailing most of the game, the Knicks ran off 10 straight points to open the fourth quarter and take a 90-84 lead on Tim Hardaway Jr.'s three-point play. Philadelphia then held New York without a basket for more than 5 minutes and moved back into the lead at 96-92 on consecutive 3-poiners by Carter-Williams and Turner.

J.R. Smith ended the Knicks' drought with a 3-pointer, but baskets by Young and Anderson pushed it to 100-95. New York had one last chance when it got within two, but Young made a wide-open 3-pointer and Turner followed with a basket for a 107-100 cushion that sent fans for the exits.

Andrea Bargnani scored 20 points for the Knicks in his return to the starting lineup after coming off the bench Monday in a loss to Brooklyn. Woodson made the change, wanting to return to the bigger lineup similar to the one that beat the 76ers in the last meeting. But the Knicks also had Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin for that game, and both are out now with sprained left ankles.

The loss to the Nets was a tumultuous holiday for the Knicks, as their blowout loss was followed by quotes from Anthony that seemed critical of his teammates' effort and Chandler that appeared to question coach Mike Woodson's defensive strategy.

They probably didn't feel much better after this one, losing to a team they had defeated eight of the previous 10 times.

Anthony missed all four shots and had just one point in the first quarter while the 76ers hit 56 percent for a 33-26 lead. He came back with 13 in the second, helping the Knicks pull to 61-56 at halftime.

NOTES: Sixers F Brandon Davies had surgery for a broken right small finger. The Sixers said Davies, hurt Saturday against Chicago, will be re-evaluated in two weeks, though Brown said he's expected to be out longer. ... The Knicks are worth a league-high $1.4 billion, according to a ranking in Forbes. ... Brown spoke highly of center Dewayne Dedmon, given the indication he would probably earn a second 10-day contract. Dedmon was signed from the NBA Development League on Jan. 14.

Deaf Seattle FB Coleman writes response to deaf girl

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Before heading to a team walkthrough Wednesday morning, Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman felt the need to write.

So he took a couple of minutes to write to 9-year-old Riley Kovalcik after a letter she wrote to Coleman ended up on his Twitter feed a day earlier.

"This morning I woke up and was like let me write something back. So right before our walkthrough I wrote up a little something," Coleman said in the Seahawks' locker room on Wednesday afternoon. "Might see some grammar mistakes in there, but I was trying to put it out right quick and send it back."

Kovalcik, who is hearing impaired, saw her letter get circulated around social media on Tuesday after it was retweeted by Coleman, who is also hearing impaired. The 9-year-old wrote, "Just try your best. I have faif (sic) in you Derrick good Job on January 20th game."

Kovalick also wrote that she wears two hearing aids just like Coleman and she also has a twin sister that wears one hearing aid.

The letter was sent via Twitter by Riley's father, Jake. He told the New York Daily News on Wednesday that he posted the letter to show Coleman how much of an inspiration he is for kids. Coleman posted his letter to Twitter on Wednesday so she could see his response.

"He's been so successful. He's somebody to look up to and he made her feel like hearing aids are cool," Jake Kovalick told the Daily News.

Coleman said he regularly receives letters, but Riley's felt special and that's why he took the time to respond so quickly even as the Seahawks are preparing for next week's Super Bowl against Denver. Coleman wrote, "I want you to know that I always try my best in everything that I do and faith in you & your twin sister too. Even though we wear hearing aids we can still accomplish our goals & dreams."

Coleman recently did a commercial for Duracell batteries that has become a YouTube sensation with more than 9 million views.

"It means the world to them," Coleman said of the letter. "It only took a couple of minutes of my time."

Ex-Cowboy convicted of intoxication manslaughter

DALLAS (AP) Former Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent was convicted of intoxication manslaughter Wednesday for a fiery wreck that killed his teammate and close friend, Jerry Brown.

He faces up to 20 years in prison for a December 2012 wreck after a night of partying with fellow Cowboys players. He could also get probation.

Jurors took about nine hours over two days to convict Brent, who was led from the courtroom in handcuffs as family members sitting in the front row of the gallery sobbed.

Among those sitting with Brent's family was Stacey Jackson, Brown's mother. Jackson did not respond to questions as she left the courtroom Wednesday with Brent's family, but she has said in interviews that she's forgiven Brent and could testify in support of a lighter sentence for him when that phase of the trial begins Thursday.

Attorneys from both sides remain under a gag order that prevented them from commenting after the proceedings.

Prosecutors say Brent, a defensive tackle, was drunk when he crashed his Mercedes on a suburban Dallas highway in December 2012, killing Brown, a linebacker on the Cowboys practice squad who had also been Brent's teammate at the University of Illinois. Officers who arrived on scene saw Brent trying to pull Brown's body from the wreckage.

Police say Brent's blood alcohol level was tested shortly after the crash at 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit for drivers in Texas. Prosecutors last week argued that the burly, 320-pound defensive tackle had as many as 17 drinks the night of the crash.

Brent's attorneys argued the blood tests used by police were faulty and that Brent could not have drank nearly that much. Attorney George Milner said his client was "guilty of being stupid behind the wheel of a car," not drinking beforehand.

Brent retired from the NFL last year, but his ties to the Cowboys were prominent at trial. Two current players, Barry Church and Danny McCray, testified about hanging out with Brent and Brown, first playing video games, then having dinner and going to Privae, a Dallas nightclub.

Sean Lee, a Cowboys linebacker, attended part of the trial to show support for Brent, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said this week that he was closely watching for a verdict.

"Certainly it's tragic. We've all, to some degree, have been a part of this," Jones said on Tuesday, according to the Cowboys' website. "We support Josh. This has been just a terrible experience for the families who lost a loved one and for Josh who loved Jerry as well."

Jurors saw video of Brent appearing to hold bottles of Champagne in each hand and credit-card receipts that showed Brent had purchased three bottles. They also saw police dash cam footage of Brent losing his balance during field sobriety tests and occasionally stumbling over his words while talking to officers.

It was, in the words of prosecutors Jason Hermus and Heath Harris, a textbook case of intoxication manslaughter. The prosecutors told jurors in their closing argument that they should send a message about the danger posed by drunken drivers.

Hermus stood in front of Brent, hit the table and shouted: "They shouldn't be driving, no exceptions, no excuses!"

Prosecutors have indicated they will push for jail time for Brent. His conviction comes just after weeks of fierce debate about a North Texas teen, Ethan Couch, who received probation for intoxication manslaughter after a wreck that left four people dead. Couch's case, and the so-called "affluenza" defense his attorneys employed, became the subject of fierce, widespread scrutiny.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has attended parts of Brent's trial and whispered in prosecutors' ears during the questioning of one witness. Watkins told a sports radio station last year that prosecutors had the responsibility to make sure Brent "loses his freedom."

Brent, a defensive tackle, had played in all 12 games of the 2012 NFL season before the crash. He retired in July.

Brown was signed to the Cowboys' practice squad in the 2012 season.

Percy Harvin back to practice for Seattle

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin has cleared league-mandated concussion protocol and has returned to practice as a full participant.

Harvin was on the field for Seattle's practice on Wednesday, his first since suffering a concussion in the second quarter of the NFC divisional playoff game against New Orleans on Jan. 11. Harvin was not cleared last week and was unable to play in the NFC championship game against San Francisco.

Harvin's had an injury filled season, playing in just two of 18 games. He had hip surgery in early August and made his debut in Week 11 against Minnesota. Harvin suffered complications after that one game and was unable to make it back until the postseason. He had three receptions and one carry for 9 yards before being injured against the Saints.

Sherman: 'Thug' is just an accepted form of N-word

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Richard Sherman wondered if he came to the NFL 20 years too late.

The Seattle Seahawks' All-Pro cornerback wondered if his swagger might have fit better a few decades earlier when that confidence and an unfiltered tongue was perhaps more accepted.

"I studied the old school game more than I studied the new school game, and I play it that way. It rubs a lot of people the wrong way," Sherman said Wednesday. "Giving a true speech after a game, a true passionate speech is old school football. Playing press corner and sitting up there every play is old school football. I guess maybe I just haven't adjusted to the times."

Sherman spoke at length for the first time since Sunday's NFC championship game win over San Francisco where his postgame comments to Fox reporter Erin Andrews became the talking point. It was a loud, emotional moment that happened just a few minutes after the Seahawks earned the second Super Bowl berth in franchise history.

Sherman was at the center of the decisive play, deflecting a pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone and watching teammate Malcolm Smith run over to intercept it to clinch the victory. Sherman's ensuing remarks were directed mostly at Crabtree but his intense, shouting delivery is what took people aback.

Sherman said the reaction that followed over the next two days left him a little stunned as well.

"I was surprised by it. Because we're talking about football here and a lot of people took it a little bit further than football." Sherman said. "I guess some people showed how far we have really come in this day and age and it was kind of profound what happened and people's opinions of that nature, because I was on a football field showing passion. Maybe it was misdirected, maybe things may have been immature, maybe things could have been worded better but this is on a football field. I didn't commit any crimes, I wasn't doing anything illegal. I was showing passion after a football game."

Sherman apologized for taking away the spotlight from the performances by some of his teammates. Marshawn Lynch's 109 yards rushing and 40-yard touchdown, Jermaine Kearse's 35-yard touchdown catch on fourth-down and Bobby Wagner's 15 tackles all became secondary to Sherman's words.

What seemed to bother Sherman the most in the fallout was hearing the word "thug" attached to his name.

"The only reason it bothers me is it seems like it's an accepted way of calling someone the N-word nowadays. It's like everybody else said the N-word and they said thug and they're like, `that's fine,"' Sherman said. "That's where it kind of takes me aback. It's kind of disappointing because they know. What is the definition of a thug, really?"

Sherman then referenced seeing highlights of the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames playing on Saturday when a fight broke out two seconds into the game.

"They didn't even play hockey. They just threw their sticks aside and started fighting," he said. "I saw that and said, `Oh, man, I'm the thug? What's going on here. Geez.' I'm really disappointed in being called a thug."

While there's been criticism for his rant, he's also received support. Perhaps most surprising was a tweet from baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. Not a huge user of social media - Aaron had sent seven tweets before Tuesday - his message to Sherman read, "hang in there & keep playing as well as you did Sunday. Excellent job - you have my support."

Sherman was peppered with questions for more than 20 minutes Wednesday. Teammate Russell Wilson was also asked about the fallout. He said it hasn't been a distraction as the Seahawks begin preparing for Denver.

Sherman also didn't like hearing that some have labeled the team villainous.

"Anytime you label Russell Wilson a villain it has to be a joke," he said.

Sherman said he has not reached out to Crabtree. Sherman attempted to shake Crabtree's hand following the interception only to get shoved in the face. Even after his on-field interview, Sherman continued to deride Crabtree in his postgame media session, calling the receiver "mediocre" and later saying their problems dated to an incident during an offseason event in Arizona.

Sherman said he doesn't regret the choke sign he directed at San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a gesture that drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"No man, it's Reggie Miller," Sherman said. "It's Reggie Miller. It's rivalries, right?"

High-spending Yanks add Tanaka for $155M

NEW YORK (AP) The Yankees talked frugality, then reverted to their high-spending ways.

New York capped an offseason spending spree by agreeing Wednesday to a $155 million, seven-year contract with prized Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Following just the second season in 19 years that didn't include a playoff appearance, the Yankees flexed their economic might and committed $438 million to four free agents.

Tanaka joined catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran on a revamped roster missing long-time All-Stars Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Robinson Cano.

And in addition to the deal with the 25-year-old right-hander, the Yankees must pay a $20 million posting fee to Tanaka's Japanese club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

"Anybody that questioned our commitment to winning is going to have to question themselves," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Big league teams had until Friday to reach an agreement with Tanaka, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year as the Golden Eagles won the Japan Series title. Arizona, the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston all said they were among the failed bidders.

Still, the Yankees have ample uncertainty - especially in an AL East where they compete with World Series champion Boston. And especially with a veteran team that saw 21 players go on the disabled list last year.

David Robertson appears set to inherit the closer's role from the retired Rivera, and New York must try to make up the offense lost when Cano left for a $240 million, 10-year deal with Seattle. Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the entire season and 39-year-old shortstop Derek Jeter has played just 17 games since October 2012.

"I think the entire infield is certainly something that people will focus on," New York general manager Brian Cashman said. "What's Brian Roberts going to be? What's Derek Jeter going to be as he comes back from his injury? What's Mark Teixeira going to be at first base as he comes back from his wrist? Can Kelly Johnson secure and handle on a consistent basis third base?"

New York went 85-77 last year, its worst record since 1992. Attendance and television ratings dropped.

The pinstriped response was similar to the Yankees' behavior after they missed the playoffs in 2008. They spent $423.5 million on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Teixeira, then won their 27th World Series title.

This offseason included big deals for McCann ($85 million for five years), Ellsbury ($153 million for seven) and Beltran ($45 million for three). Combined with agreements to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda and Brendan Ryan, and to add Roberts, Johnson and Matt Thornton, the Yankees' offseason spending on free agents totals $471 million. Add the posting fee, and the cost was nearly a half-billion dollars.

"There has been criticism of myself and my brother the last couple years that, gee, if our dad was still in charge, we'd be spending this and spending that and doing whatever it takes to win," Hank Steinbrenner said, referring to late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

"He didn't have revenue sharing, at least for most of his time," Hank Steinbrenner added. "That's what these people in the sports media don't seem to get. If it wasn't for revenue sharing, we'd have a payroll of $300 million a year if we wanted to. So we're doing this despite having to pay all that revenue sharing."

Tanaka replaces the retired Pettitte in the rotation and joins Sabathia, Kuroda and Ivan Nova. David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno are in the mix for the No. 5 slot.

Tanaka was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons with the Golden Eagles, striking out 1,238 in 1315 innings. Yankees official has tracked him since 2007, scouting 15 of his games. They sent an eight-person delegation to meet with him Jan. 8 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

"He's got an assortment of quality pitches. He's fastball, slider, split. Throws a cutter, too," said pitcher coach Larry Rothschild, who attended the session. "He's showed tenacity on the mound. When he got in tougher situations, you could see he dialed it up."

Tanaka's agreement calls for $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in 2020, and it allows the pitcher to terminate the deal after the 2017 season and become a free agent. He also gets a full no-trade provision.

Tanaka receives a $35,000 moving allowance, an annual $100,000 housing allowance to be used in New York or near the team's spring training facility in Tampa, Fla., and an interpreter of the pitcher's choice at an $85,000 yearly salary. In addition to his own flight to the U.S., Tanaka annually will be provided four first-class round trip tickets between New York and Japan.

Tanaka's deal is the highest for an international free agent and the fifth-largest for a pitcher, trailing only the seven-years deals of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw ($215 million), Detroit's Justin Verlander ($180 million), Seattle's Felix Hernandez ($175 million) and CC Sabathia ($161 million under his original agreement with New York).

His contract boosts the Yankees' payroll for purposes of the luxury tax over $203 million for 20 players with agreements. Barring trades, there is little chance New York will get under the $189 million tax threshold.

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner had been saying for two years that getting below the tax threshold in 2014 was a goal, but wouldn't get in the way of fielding a contending team.

New York had great success in the Japanese market when it signed outfielder Hideki Matsui, a star from 2003-09 who was the World Series MVP in his final season in pinstripes. But the Yankees had failures with Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa, pitchers who never lived up to their potential.

Matsui was part of a video the Yankees created and showed to Tanana at their pitch meeting.

Tanaka was the first player available under the new agreement between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball, which caps posting fees at $20 million and allows multiple big league teams to negotiate. Under the previous system, in place from December 1998 through last offseason, there was no limit on the bid for negotiating rights and only the team with the top bid could try to sign the player.

"It turned everything in reverse of where it was in the past," Cashman said, "where the posting numbers were extremely high, like players' soccer transfer fees, to obviously a more traditional free-agent circumstance with a much lower transfer fee."

NOTES: To clear a roster spot, the Yankees designated LHP David Huff for assignment.

Bo Jackson joins White Sox as team ambassador

CHICAGO (AP) Former slugger Bo Jackson is back with the Chicago White Sox, this time as a team ambassador.

A baseball and football star, Jackson played for the White Sox from 1991 to 1993.

In his new job, Jackson will make appearances for the organization and serve as a team representative in the community and throughout baseball. He joins a team of White Sox ambassadors that includes recently announced Hall of Fame inductee Frank Thomas, Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, Ron Kittle, Carlos May, Bill Melton and Minnie Minoso.

The White Sox announced the move on Wednesday.

Marlins president a castaway on new 'Survivor'

MIAMI (AP) Miami Marlins president David Samson is among 18 castaways on the new season of "Survivor," which begins Feb. 26 on CBS.

The cast also includes a high-stakes poker player, an ex-NFL cheerleader, a nuclear engineer and former NBA All-Star Cliff Robinson.

In a biography released by the network, Samson lists as his claim to fame getting the government in Miami to "contribute over $350 million to a new baseball park during the recession." Critics called the financing plan a taxpayer rip-off, and a backlash against the deal resulted in the recall of the county mayor.

As for while he thinks he'll win, Samson said, "I always win, because people underestimate me."

The new season of "Survivor" takes place in Cagayan, a province in the Philippines.

Snowstorm gives MetLife Stadium dress rehearsal

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The NFL and personnel at MetLife Stadium had a Super Bowl pop quiz on snow removal less than two weeks before the title game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

The league and stadium officials decided to use a winter storm that dumped a foot or more of snow in the New York City metropolitan area Tuesday as somewhat of a dress rehearsal to see how quickly they could clean the 80,000-seat facility that will hold the first outdoor Super Bowl in cold weather.

NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman said Wednesday an 18-hour time limit was set for removing the snow from the stadium, surrounding parking lots and access roads in the Meadowlands sports complex, where the game will be played Feb. 2.

Grubman refused to speculate whether the storm that snarled roads, closed schools and had states of emergency in New Jersey, New York City and some surrounding areas would have caused the Super Bowl to be postponed. He said that would be a decision made by state authorities.

Grubman, however, said the league has several contingency plans for the game, including moving it up to Friday or Saturday, pushing it back to Monday or adjusting the scheduled start on Sunday deal with the weather. The game is scheduled to start at 6:25 p.m. EST.

"Based on the long-range forecast, all that I would even hazard to guess is that it is probably going to be cold. I doubt we are going to have an unusual warm spell," Grubman said at the news conference originally called to showcase how the stadium was preparing for the Super Bowl.

The snowstorm on Tuesday was a fortuitous coincidence for the cold-weather Super Bowl.

MetLife spokeswoman Nicole Fountain said the stadium and its contractors had 1,300 workers removing the 13 inches of snow that fell in and around the stadium. The crews started removal at around 8 a.m. and had sections of the stadium and most of the tarp-covered field cleared by noon.

During this past season, the crews removed six inches of wet, iced-packed snow in roughly 12 hours before a Seahawks-Giants game on Dec. 15, Ron VanDeVeen, the stadium's senior vice president of events said Wednesday. The snow being removed Wednesday was not as heavy, he said.

Grubman said the league is prepared to play the game even if there is still some snow in the stands.

"Games are played with snow all the time," he said. "It's not just MetLife Stadium. I think the crowd will be an exceptional crowd and they will enjoy the game. I don't think they will be fazed by a little bit of snow on their seats, if that's what comes to pass. We aim to not have that happen, but if it happens, it's sort of what happens in NFL stadiums all the time."

Grubman also displayed warm welcome kits that fans will receive entering the stadium on game day. Cushions hold the kit items which included ear and hand muffs, mittens, a hat, neck warmers, lip balm and other items.

"The warm welcome kit was designed to make fans comfortable," he said, "and to have those last-minute items that they may not think about."

Grubman also advised fans to dress in layers for the game. He said there will be warming areas in the stadium should anyone need them.

The storm that hit the area Tuesday stretched from Kentucky to New England.

"If you are going to have one, and you are going to have it 10 days out, we're going to make use of it," Grubman said of the storm. "The silver lining is we are running ourselves through a rigorous dress rehearsal."

Grubman said the league was gathering information from law enforcement authorities about how the emergency conditions might have affected the game had it been played Tuesday. The two groups will go over the information soon.

Whatever happens, the league is ready to deal with all scenarios, Grubman said.

"Some people will say perfection will be a nice little dusting of snow in the third quarter," Grubman said. "Other people will say perfection will be 40 degrees in early February with the sun shining until sundown at 5:35 or 5:45 or 6:20 on Sunday, the second.

"I think it is really up to the individual."

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