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NBA goes green

04.02.09 at 9:47 pm ET
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NBA Green

The NBA has kicked off its inaugural Green Week, which will run April 2-10. In partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the NBA aims to raise awareness and funding for the environment.

Green Week initiatives feature hands-on community services programs, auctions to benefit environmental preservation organizations, and PSAs featuring actor/environmentalist Robert Redford. Each team will participate in their own programs, including tree planting, recycling drives, and clean-up days. They will also promote Go Green Awareness Nights in their arenas.

As part of NBA Green Week, the league will also encourage the use of environmentally-friendly materials. adidas will provide 100 percent organic cotton shooting shirts for each player featuring the NBA Green logo. The Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, and Denver Nuggets will wear 45 percent organic cotton green-colored uniforms and socks. NBA.com will also auction off autographed Spaulding basketballs made from 40 percent recycled materials, with all proceeds going toward the the NRDC.

For more information visit www.nba.com/green.

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Why Nova beats Carolina… Trags Take

04.02.09 at 9:07 pm ET
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National semifinal-Villanova (30-7) vs. North Carolina (32-4), 8:47 p.m. ET, CBS-TV.

It is generally assumed that the University of North Carolina, with names like Lawson, Hansbrough and Green, is the team with the most depth and the most talent in the NCAA tournament, with Connecticut a fairly close second. And it’s generally assumed Carolina is headed for another championship date, if not title, on Monday night in Detroit.

North Carolina has been, for the most part, very workmanlike in their four-game run through the tournament to this point. They have dispatched of Radford, LSU, Gonzaga and Oklahoma. Villanova is coming off one of the most epic battles in NCAA tournament history, edging Pittsburgh on a mad 60-foot dash to the basket by Scottie Reynolds.

These two teams have great tournament history.

Michael Jordan and company beat Villanova in the Elite Eight in 1982 when Carolina finally won a title for Dean Smith. Villanova returned the favor in 1985, when they beat the Heels in the Southeast title game, 56-44. And in 2005, a most dubious traveling call was made on Nova’s Allan Ray and Carolina held on for a 67-66 win in the Sweet 16 as Carolina won its first title under Roy Williams.

Here’s how Villanova evens that score on Saturday night in Detroit.

1: Man-to-man. Villanova has the athletic depth on its roster that not even the No. 2 seed Oklahoma Sooners could throw at the Heels. Scottie Reynolds can match up with Ty Lawson man-to-man, with Corey Fisher off the bench. Dante Cunningham can defend Tyler Hansbrough because Cunningham plays ‘long’ as scouts are fond of saying. Dwayne Anderson, Nova’s most underrated player, will likely get the assignment of dealing with Danny Green.

2. Senior Leadership. No team is getting more out of their seniors than Nova. Dwayne Anderson, Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark. They all played key roles in not folding under the pressure on Saturday, when the Cats trailed by four with under three minutes to go.

3. Coaching. Jay Wright has his team believing they can beat anyone in any circumstance.

4. Defense. Villanova is playing better defense than any team in the field right now. They’ll need it because Carolina is averaging 90 points a game in their four wins.

5. 1985 Karma. Otherwise known as the Rollie Massimino Reunion Tour. Massimino met with former Pistons coach Chuck Daly this week at the hospital that is treating Daly’s pancreatic cancer. Daly, who took Penn to the Final Four in 1979, drew up a play for Massimino to give to Jay Wright.

How they got here:

No. 3 seed Villanova won the East Regional. Beat No. 14 American, 80-69. Beat No. 6 UCLA. 89-69. Beat No. 2 Duke 77-54. Beat No. 1 Pittsburgh, 78-76.

No. 1 seed North Carolina won the South Regional. Beat No. 16 Radford, 101-58. Beat No. 8 LSU, 84-70. Beat No. 4 Gonzaga, 98-77. Beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 72-60.

This Villanova team isn’t the 1985 squad that pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA history by beating Memphis State and Georgetown in the final. It’s better and more talented. The 1985 team had Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain and Gary McLain, Harold Pressley and Harold Jensen, Wakefield’s Mark Plansky off the bench.

And with all due respect to Plansky, a classmate in Electrical Engineering ’88, this version of the Wildcats have about twice the number of scoring options and are playing even better defense. That 1985 squad had the advantage this one doesn’t-playing with no shot clock. And still, this team has found ways to shut down UCLA, Duke and Pitt in three straight games.

Final take:

Villanova 71, North Carolina 68

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The lonesome shooter

04.02.09 at 1:22 pm ET
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With apologies to Adam Sandler, Ray Allen felt like the Lonesome Shooter on Wednesday night.

He had no lift or life in his jump shot in the fourth quarter and teammate Eddie House, who was on fire, gave him some friendly advice.

“It was like for a second, everything was flat,” Allen said. “I just needed to kind of back away from it and just get my legs back. I went out of the game and kind of clean-slated it. Eddie was telling me, obviously one of the best shooters in the NBA, he was telling me, ‘I don’t normally say anything to you but your shot, everything is flat.’ It’s all in my legs. There were two shots I took before I left the game. I think in the fourth quarter, it was just legs and I knew it once the ball left my fingertips. It’s a funky thing for me.”

Another teammate, Paul Pierce, called Ray Ray the best clutch shooter he’s ever seen.

“I’ll proclaim Ray the greatest shooter in the history of the NBA that I’ve ever seen,” Pierce said after Allen’s game-winner with 2.1 seconds to go in double-OT.

But Allen remained humble.

“He didn’t play with Reggie Miller,” Allen said. “I’m sure he would’ve seen heroics from him day-in and day-out. I think it’s all predicated on what you do in clutch situations. I think on a couple of buzzer-beaters I’ve hit, he’s been the passer. He’s been right there, personally. It’s odd because Paul’s the one that always has the ball but I’m the one who’s made a couple of buzzer-beaters the last two years. He’s hit a lot of big shots but it always somebody makes a mistake. Eddie’s out there, I’m out there, Kevin’s out there to make them pay for their bad rotations.

“In my mind, I always think the next shot is always the one that going to go in and the next shot after that is the going to be the shot to win the game. Regardless of what’s happened up to this point, my mind has to be ready to take that shot as if I’m in the gym myself.”

Just like Andre Kristacovitchlalinski, Jr.

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Allen continues to burn Bobcats

04.02.09 at 9:44 am ET
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Stopping Dell Curry was never easy for Ray Allen. Dale Ellis and Ricky Pierce were tough match ups too. They were dangerous players, the type who, if let open, always knew how to sting Allen and his teammates.

After Wednesday night’s double-overtime thriller, consider Allen the Charlotte Bobcats’ version of Dell Curry.

His three-pointer with seconds left iced another dramatic victory for the Celtics over the Bobcats.  (Click here for a recap of the Celtics 2OT 111-109 win.)

“He’s a pure shooter,” said Bobcats guard Raymond Felton. “He got a good look, he knocked down the shot. It’s not like those were easy shots. Those were contested shots.”

This wasn’t the first time Allen has burned the Bobcats. In November of 2007, he drained a game-winning three after Eddie House picked off Jason Richardson’s inbound attempt with less than five seconds to go. The Celtics won 96-95. The image of Allen being carried away by his teammates in celebration is still a Garden favorite.

But Allen says credit goes to the Bobcats, too. He wouldn’t be in the situation to hit last-second shots if they didn’t test the Celtics. Last season the Bobcats stunned them at home and snapped their attempt to become the fastest team to reach 30 wins. This season they beat the Celtics in overtime.

“It’s not anything that I’m doing. Really it’s the team plays us so tough,” Allen said. “They always have a great match up against us, and in the fourth quarter it’s just an opportunity for us to win games. Every day we drill fourth situations, so whether I get the shot, Paul (Pierce) gets the shot, Eddie (House) has a shot, we all kind of know.”

While it is easy for Allen to get overshadowed by Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Bobcats have learned the hard way cannot be forgotten. He was left wide open to hit the game-winner when they tried to triple-team Pierce.

“You can’t exclude him out because he’s a guy who could come in and give you 40, 30 points any time,” said Felton, adding, “He’s a big time player, big time scorer, he hits some big shots.”

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To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

04.02.09 at 1:07 am ET
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“first 5 people who meet me at the garden in the players parking lot entrance at 445 with my jersey on get free tickets password is truth”

Less than a week ago, Paul Pierce started a frenzy in Boston when he began offering up Celtics tickets on Twitter. Since then, fans have been heading to the TD Banknorth Garden in hopes of snagging a hand delivered gift from Pierce. This was no joke — five lucky fans watched the Celtics beat the Oklahoma City Thunder from Pierce’s personal suite.

In just three days, Pierce’s invitation blew up all over the Internet. But on Wednesday, after tweeting about tickets for the Celtics-Charlotte Bobcats game, he had to renege his offer with this announcement: Do to the ammount in traffic and responce we r gonna to pospone this givaway for fridays game.

While Pierce has created a tweeting phenomenon in the Celtics community, not every player wants to put their lives out there for anyone to simply “follow” with the click of a mouse. How do other members of the Celtics who are not on Twitter view the social network?

“I wouldn’t say that I would be against it,” said Ray Allen. “I think when we do something, it becomes habit forming. So when you do it over and over again, you somewhat have to stick to it because people expect it. It’s like if you score 20 points in your first NBA game, they expect it the next game and the next game after that. So it becomes a ritual that you somewhat have to perform. But I wouldn’t be against it.”

There are dozens of NBA players on Twitter. Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O’Neal was one of the first to publicize his profile. More recently, Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva brought tweeting to the forefront when he was punished for sending updates from the locker room during halftime of the Bucks-Celtics game.

Celtics guard Stephon Marbury is also part of the Twitter community. He already posts personal videos on his website, starbury.com, but saw this as another outlet to spread his own message with statements like: i like the direct connection to the fans. no espn, no local news, just me and twitterland.

Allen agrees there are benefits to putting the words back in the players mouths.

“I think a lot of times when we do what we do around here, speaking to the media before and after games, we have no control where it goes and how it goes,” he said. “A lot of times you could break the words up, they could be taken out of context, you never know. I think when you set forth your own agenda, you can put it out there the way you want it to be out there.”

For every player who has a legitimate account, there are even more whose identity is falsified. Take Leon Powe: According to Twitter, he has more than 300 followers who he keeps updated on his knee injury and even the weather. But as it turns out, Powe didn’t even know what Twitter was, let alone manage a profile.

“I don’t even mess with the computers like that. If I did, it would be cool, but nobody has come to me and talked to me about anything like that,” he said, adding, “I think being an athlete, it could be a positive but sometimes it could be a negative, too. Being an athlete, you’re always out there and people are always going to find stories and find what you did eight years ago. So it’s basically the same thing.”

Powe is in favor of using Twitter for a good cause, such as giving away tickets as Pierce does. But it feels invasive to him when people know the miniscule details of his daily life.

“That’s weird to me,” he said. “I don’t do that. I don’t do that. I think that’s weird, but that’s just me. I wouldn’t do it like that. But some players probably like doing that stuff. It’s based on what you like.”

Social networking sites also pose challenges for young players in the league. Rookie Bill Walker is still going through the process of figuring out what he should and should not say to the media. At least in the locker room he can rely on the watchful ear of a media relations team. His words would not be monitored, though, if he joined Twitter.

“You don’t know how much you can put out there and what to keep back. Right now it’s kind of just learning my way, what we can put out there and how much of ourselves we can show,” said Walker, adding, “If it sounds wrong to you, you shouldn’t say it. That’s what I believe. If you say something, just make sure it’s your opinion, your thought, and you stand by it.”

While other players weigh the options of tweets and twittering, Pierce and Marbury continue to keep everyone up to date on the Celtics. Welcome to, as Marbury puts it, “Twitterland.”

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Ray for Hall of Fame

04.02.09 at 12:39 am ET
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It should be pretty obvious to everyone who watches the NBA that Ray Allen will be headed to Springfield and the Basketball Hall of Fame after his career is over.

Wednesday night’s game-winner is just another moment in a career filled with game-winning heroics.

But with Kevin Garnett on the sideline and the Celtics needing a pick-me-up, Ray Allen was bigger than life.

Listen to the praise of his teammates.

Paul Pierce: “That’s Ray.  He’s a future Hall of Famer, and great players find a way.  When Ray shoots and misses shots, it doesn’t discourage him.  You know this from great players.  His confidence is through the roof regardless if he’s missed two, three, or four hundred shots in a row, he always feels like the next one is going to go in.  I’ll proclaim Ray the greatest shooter in the history of the NBA that I’ve ever seen.”

Eddie House, who actually gave advice to Ray when he noticed he wasn’t getting lift in his shot earlier in the game: “It just takes one. I told Ray, I told him don’t worry man you’re going knock it down when we really need and he did exactly that. Shooters aren’t afraid to take the next shot, always got confidence in self. Even when he had some air balls he came back and found himself. That’s just a hall of fame player right there.”

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Getting spoiled

04.02.09 at 12:21 am ET
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Does life get any better for Boston basketball fans?

Their NBA franchise is the defending world champion and bearing down on another high seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs.

TD Banknorth Garden just hosted one of the most memorable college basketball games in history, as Villanova edged Pittsburgh, 78-76, in the East Regional championship last Saturday.

And then there was Wednesday night. Celtics 111, Bobcats 109. Double-overtime. Best Celtics game of the season. Best game of the NBA season. Want proof?

Trailing by 12 with 6:01 to go, Eddie House drains the first of back-to-back threes to make it a six-point game. Trailing by eight with two minutes to go, the Celtics rally as Rajon Rondo hits a pair of free throws to force OT.

Ray Allen drains a three with 12.4 seconds to tie the game, 101-101, and force overtime No. 2, foreshadowing what was to come.

Allen makes a three late in double overtime for the lead. Former UConn star Emeka Okefor converts a layup to put Charlotte back on top. Allen airballs a three. All hope appears lost. But the Bobcats fail to get a shot off.

Then, with the Celtics needing just two to win and down 109-108, Paul Pierce drives into traffic and then dishes to a wide-open Allen on the right baseline. Allen launches another three and this time the ball finds nothing but net and the clock reads 2.1 seconds. 111-109 Boston. Read the rest of this entry »

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