Kyle Hightower

About Me

Sports writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. Currently juggling words at The Associated Press and covering the New England Patriots, Boston Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins. 

Recent work

Analysis: Injuries wreaking more havoc than virus protocols

As teams gear up for the stretch run of the NBA regular season, it’s injuries to key players — not just their unavailability due to COVID-19 — that is having the biggest effect on the playoff race in both conferences. Still, preparing to play outside of the controlled atmosphere of last season’s Florida bubble has helped teams brace for the unexpected. When the NBA season tipped off in December, keeping players healthy as they traveled during the pandemic was the chief priority around the league. In the four months since then, virtually every team has made adjustments to their rotation because of league-wide health and safety protocols. Lately, it’s been injuries and not the virus that has dictated how the season has gone.

Analytics shifting views on 40-yard dash, other matrixes

Every year the 40-yard dash is one of the most-watched segments of the NFL combine as well as at college pro days. NFL hopefuls prepare for the moment for months and have even employed speed coaches to help ensure they post a favorable result, knowing their performance could mean the difference in draft position and millions of dollars. But after years of scrutiny and viral YouTube moments highlighting prospects’ successes and failures, the value of the 40 and other matrixes don’t hold the same cache they once did among today’s league talent evaluators. While measurable testing will always be a component of assessing players’ value, using analytics to gauge the intangible qualities of the next generation of NFL hopefuls is the new frontier.

With playoffs unlikely, fading Patriots have questions at QB

For the first time in more than a decade, the New England Patriots will head into their final three games of the season with an unsettled playoff fate. The Patriots entered the week in 10th place in the AFC and trudging through one of their worst years of Bill Belichick’s tenure. Now 6-7 following a 24-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night, New England’s long-shot hopes of extending an NFL-record run of 11 consecutive playoff appearances have faded even more.

Voting focus could be legacy for latest wave of NBA activism

NBA players are building on the framework of Colin Kaepernick’s protests during the national anthem that helped raise awareness about police brutality, efforts that have permeated the league since it restarted its season in Florida last month amid the coronavirus pandemic. But where Kaepernick’s demonstrations raised awareness, NBA players want their actions to move the needle further. But transforming the widespread embrace for social justice in America from a moment into a movement requires targeting systemic barriers and changing laws, not just mindsets.

Newton embracing new challenge, fresh start with Patriots

Cam Newton is the first to admit he’s still getting used to his new life as a member of the New England Patriots. Everything feels strange, from his morning ride to the stadium, to just putting on gear with different colors and insignia for the first time in nine NFL seasons. But a week into this latest stop in his career, the 2015 league MVP says he isn’t as much concerned with replacing Tom Brady or silencing his doubters as he is with proving to himself that he’s still capable of performing at a high level.

Hands to yourself: Complying with protocols proves difficult

From players ignoring prohibitions on handshakes, high-fives and hugs, to some sitting noticeably closer than six feet apart in dugouts during games, the recently launched baseball season has provided ample evidence old habits are hard to shake, even when the changes are meant to mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The outbreak among Miami Marlins players has highlighted the major leagues’ vulnerabilities, though teams were already reexamining approaches after the first few days of play.

NBA restart likely to provide TV audience new sights, sounds

During a normal NBA season, the sights and sounds of arenas serve as both a showy backdrop and home court advantage for its teams. But with no fans allowed in the stands for the upcoming restart because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the league’s Orlando-area bubble restart will have a decidedly different feel for both players and coaches, as well as the television audience watching from afar.

Brady's exit leaves Patriots to swim in crowded QB market

BOSTON (AP) — Over the past two decades, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick built the most successful player-coach partnership in NFL history, establishing the core of the Patriots’ championship culture. Following Brady’s announcement Tuesday that he will leave New England in free agency, Belichick is left with replacing the most successful quarterback pro football has seen while also retooling a roster that already had several needs. “I don’t know what my football future holds, but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and my career,” Brady wrote in his Instagram post Tuesday.

HBCU NFL hopefuls adjust after canceled pro days, combine

De’Montrez Burroughs looked at it as his best shot to accomplish his NFL dream. The South Carolina State senior receiver had the dates circled on his calendar. First, the Bulldogs’ annual pro day on March 19, followed a week later by the first-ever NFL combine event held for draft prospects from Historically Black Colleges and Universities who didn’t receive invitations to the national combine in Indianapolis. He left for spring break the week before his pro day with everything ready to go. He had film packages to distribute to scouts. He was also thinking about what he would say in interviews with representatives from NFL teams and what to ask idols like Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, who would be there.

Merrimack marks D-I hoops arrival with record-setting season

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. (AP) — About 25 miles north of Boston, in a 1,500-seat gymnasium in a quiet nook just off State Route 125, Joe Gallo is busy teaching basketball. Arms folded as he walks the length of the court, Gallo watches as a ball gets away from one of his players during a practice drill and ricochets off the bottom of the retractable bleachers. “We don’t stop competing!” Gallo shouts. “Compete! Compete! Compete!” Welcome to Merrimack College, home of one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season.
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