Pierce heckles Bryant and it works . . . sort of


Pierce heckles Bryant and it works . . . sort of

ORLANDO, Fla. Whether he's on the floor or on the bench, Paul Pierce will heckle you even Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.

And the crazy part?

It worked . . . sort of.

Bryant, who was at the free-throw line at the time of Pierce's verbal jabs from the Eastern Conference bench, missed the second of the two free throws.

However, the East could not muster any more offense, with the West holding on for a 152-149 win.

Bryant finished with 27 points, and in the process, became the NBA's all-time scoring leader in All-Star games. Bryant, who now has 271 points scored in All-tar games, surpassed Michael Jordan who had 262.

However, the talk surrounding Bryant after the game had more to do with the verbal banter between him and Pierce.

Pierce, who had just three points on 1-for-8 shooting, downplayed the trash talking that went back and fourth between him and Bryant which Pierce referred to as, "good friendly heckling going on between two rivals."

The goal of his taunting of Bryant was simple.

"Trying to get him to miss the shot," Pierce said. "He missed the shot, and it gave us a chance."

After Bryant's miss, the East were down 151-149 with 22.8 seconds to play.

Following a timeout, East guard Deron Williams missed a 3-pointer, but was able to get the rebound. LeBron James eventually had the ball in his hands. He tried to make a cross-court pass that was picked off by West forward Blake Griffin, who was immediately fouled.

Griffin made one of the two free throws.

East coach Tom Thibodeau was not surprised to see Pierce and Bryant have words for one another.

"That's all part of it," said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant who now coaches the Chicago Bulls. "They're ultra-competitive guys, and it's all good. You know, both guys want to win very badly. Those things happen."

And both seem to understand that, which is why the two had no hard feelings towards one another when the game was over.

"We went to each other after the game and laughed and hugged about it," Pierce said. "We're two veterans; we've been here a number of times. It's all in the fun at the All-Star game."

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract


Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have signed free-agent tight end Rob Housler to a future contract. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound target last played for the Bears but was released at the end of training camp.

Housler won't be eligible to participate with the Patriots during the postseason, but he will be available for the offseason program and training camp leading up to the 2017 campaign. 

Housler taken in the third round by the Cardinals with the 69th overall selection in 2011. In 65 career games, he has 109 catches for 1,166 yards and one touchdown. 

The Patriots may have been intrigued by Housler's skill set last summer when he caught one pass for 52 yards -- making two Patriots defenders miss in the process -- during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots and Bears held joint training camp practices in August that would have given Patriots coaches and scouts a closer look at everything Housler has to offer as a player. 

Housler was one of the better athletes at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011, running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash (fastest among tight ends), posting a 6.9-second three-cone drill, and recording a 37-inch vertical leap.

Bill Belichick and his staff hit big on a future-contract signing two years ago when a running back with a significant injury history was available to scoop up at the behest of then-assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi. Since then, the Patriots still have never lost with Dion Lewis in uniform.