ORLANDO - What kind of a Celtic would Paul Pierce be if he didn’t capitalize on an opportunity to chide Lakers guard Kobe Bryant? Pierce took full advantage while sitting on the bench last night during the final moments of the West’s 152-149 victory over the East.
With the Eastern Conference squad looking to foul while trailing by 1 point with 18.1 seconds left, Pierce encouraged teammates to foul Bryant. The East fouled Bryant and he missed the second of two free throws, allowing the East a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead.
New Jersey’s Deron Williams missed an open 3-pointer in the final seconds, but perhaps Pierce was key to giving the East that last possession.
“I was just heckling him, that’s all, just a good friendly heckle going on between two rivals,’’ Pierce said. “I was having fun. It’s the All-Star Game. That’s all it is. Just a little heckling, trying to get him to miss the shot, he missed the shot. It gave us a chance.’’
Pierce and Bryant have faced each other in two NBA Finals over the past four years, and both are known for their on-court banter.
“Right after the game, we went up and shook hands and walked around for a good 30 seconds and was laughing about it,’’ Pierce said. “I was trying to get into his head so he could miss the free throw. Then he comes over to the corner, a little trash-talking. We’re both kind of known for doing a little trash-talking in our day. But then we laughed about it right after the game.
“Kobe usually makes those shots in those situations so I am not sure if I had an effect on him. I think I did. I actually did say foul him because last week he did miss two crucial free throws. And that’s not a normal situation for him.’’
Bryant was being treated for headaches and dehydration and was not available for comment after the game.
Lin on horizon
The Knicks are coming to Boston to play the Celtics Sunday, and ticket prices are soaring well above face value. The main attraction, obviously, is former Harvard standout Jeremy Lin, who will make his first appearance in his former college city since Linsanity began.
Lin, who played in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge, came to Orlando after his most difficult game with New York, an eight-turnover outing against the Heat. Teammate Jared Jeffries said outsiders are putting too much pressure on Lin to perform nightly. Lin has embraced being an Asian-American player, but said he agrees with Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who said last week that Lin’s race may have been a reason he went undrafted.
“I think it has something to do with it,’’ Lin said. “I don’t know how much. But I think just being Asian-American, obviously when you look at me, I’m going to have to prove myself more so again and again and again, and some people may not believe it. I know a lot of people say I’m deceptively athletic and deceptively quick, and I’m not sure what’s deceptive. But it could be the fact I’m Asian-American. But I think that’s fine. It’s something that I embrace, and it gives me a chip on my shoulder. But I’m very proud to be Asian-American, and I love it.’’
Endorsing the system
The Dwight Howard situation has been one of the bigger story lines in Orlando and he has maintained that he wants to be traded from the Magic. Management has said it believes it can retain Howard, so there appears to be a stalemate. Commissioner David Stern was asked whether he would increase compensation from teams losing free agents as Major League Baseball has done - teams receive draft picks based on the quality of the free agent.
Stern said he will not adopt that system.
“We have a system that has a draft that basically tells a player where he’s going to play in this league when he’s drafted,’’ Stern said, “and a further system that has a huge advantage to the team that has him, so that our players could play for seven years with a team they didn’t choose. And we think that’s a system, not a prison. And the idea for the team is to manage to a certain place, make it as easy as possible to retain the player, or have the ability to pay him considerably more, like $30 million more than any other team can pay him, or trade him and turn that into value.
“We’ve had teams do that for a long time. I’m old enough to remember Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and assorted others who desired to go someplace else. But I’m sure Dwight will make a good and wise decision for him.’’
A record half
The 88 first-half points for the West was an All-Star Game record . . . Bryant’s 27 points moved him ahead of Michael Jordan for career points in the All-Star Game. Bryant has 271 points, 9 more than Jordan . . . Dwyane Wade (24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) recorded the third triple-double in the game’s history. LeBron James and Jordan have the others . . . The East’s 14 3-pointers were a record for the game; James canned six and Williams four.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.