Around the Nation (Feb. 4): Former NBA star Tracy McGrady to try baseball

Associated Press Published:

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BASKETBALL

Tracy McGrady plans to try baseball

HOUSTON -- Retired seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady plans to try pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.

A statement from the team says that it is a "lifelong dream" of McGrady's to play baseball. It also says that the 6-foot-8 McGrady has "demonstrated skill, determination and diligence during his training program." The team says it looks forward to monitoring his progress in a new sport.

The 34-year-old McGrady played for several NBA teams, including the Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic. He last played in the 2011-12 season.

The Skeeters last made national headlines when Roger Clemens pitched two games for them in 2012 at age 50.

NBA fines Joakim Noah $15,000

NEW YORK -- Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has been fined by the NBA for yelling at the officials after he was ejected from a game at Sacramento.

The league announced the $15,000 penalty on Tuesday.

Noah received two technical fouls in less than three minutes during the third quarter of Chicago's 99-70 loss on Monday night. The All-Star gestured at the referees and yelled obscenities as he was escorted off the court at the 7:40 mark.

Noah apologized for his actions after the game.

BASEBALL

AP source: Braves, Freeman agree to $125M contract

ATLANTA -- A person familiar with the talks says the Atlanta Braves have reached an agreement on an eight-year deal with first baseman Freddie Freeman that will be worth about $125 million.

The person confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the Braves haven't announced the deal, which is subject to a successful physical.

Earlier Tuesday, outfielder Jason Heyward and the Braves agreed to a $13.3 million, two-year contract. Heyward and Freeman had filed for salary arbitration last month.

The 24-year-old Freeman was an All-Star last year, when he hit .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBI. He matched his career high in home runs and set highs in batting average and RBI. He has topped 20 home runs in three straight seasons.

Closer Craig Kimbrel would be the Braves' only player left in arbitration.

TENNIS

Scans show Nadal on mend from injury

MADRID -- Medical scans have revealed no serious problems as Rafael Nadal continues his recovery from a back injury sustained at the Australian Open.

A statement from the world's top-ranked player says all checks "were satisfactory and showed positive evolution" regarding the injury, which contributed to his loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in the final in Melbourne.

Nadal is continuing to work out in the gym and his return to the tennis court -- starting on Thursday -- will decide "when he is ready to return to competition."

The Spaniard is scheduled to play in Buenos Aires next week. Tournaments in Rio de Janeiro, Indian Wells and Miami follow.

Doctors had prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy to speed his recovery.

AUTO RACING

NASCAR creates new 'deterrence' penalty system for season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR has revamped its penalty system to define specific offenses with pre-determined penalties.

The new "Deterrence System" classifies six different levels of penalties, with fines and point deductions increasing as the infractions become more severe. The new system will be applied only to technical infractions; NASCAR will still handle behavioral offenses individually.

The structure also allows the sanctioning body to hit repeat offenders with a multiplier that could increase penalties by 50 percent. NASCAR's previous penalty system did not tie pre-determined sanctions to specific offenses.

NASCAR has also removed chief appellate officer John Middlebrook. The retired General Motors executive has been replaced by Bryan Moss, president emeritus of Gulfstream Aerospace.

FOOTBALL

Obama applauds Seattle for Super Bowl victory

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has congratulated the Seattle Seahawks for defeating the Denver Broncos and winning Super Bowl XLVIII.

The White House says Obama spoke with Seattle head coach Pete Carroll on Tuesday and commended Carroll and his team for a great game.

Obama said he looks forward to congratulating Carroll and the team at the White House later this year.

The president had avoided picking sides in Sunday's matchup, saying he didn't want to offend either city.

Arizona's Fitzgerald to redo contract

PHOENIX -- Larry Fitzgerald says he has restructured his contract with the Arizona Cardinals, reducing a big salary-cap hit from his old deal and creating room for signing other players.

Fitzgerald announced the move on Tuesday via his Twitter account. The receiver says the move was made to help the Cardinals "get better for 2014."

Under his old deal, Fitzgerald would have counted $18 million on next year's cap.

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