Paoletti: Following the routine on a night that was anything but

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Paoletti: Following the routine on a night that was anything but

INDIANAPOLIS -- It ended so abruptly.

Tom Brady heaved that last Hail Mary into the end zone and nobody caught it. Game over. It felt like, four hours into the most ambitious, revealing conversation you've ever engaged in, your listener suddenly turned heel and walked away.

New England filed off the field, avoiding, beyond everything, the celebratory snowfall of confetti that precipitated for the New York football Giants. It was as if one glittery shred could have scalded Patriot skin.

The tradition that followed -- the media meet -- was hardly routine.

New England lost the Super Bowl. Again. Now the players had to talk about it. A job hazard. An obligation of both sides, every week, until the end.

Except there is no bright side at the end. No chance to correct mistakes, no chance to prove that the loss is not who you are, no chance to git 'em next week.

This truth was written on their faces.

One by one, the Patriots trickled into the makeshift "interview room." Black curtains partitioned the enormous space being occupied inside the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium. Podiums dotted the slate gray floor in a horseshoe shape.

The players stepped up, sat down, and dared reporters to speak.

Sometimes, nobody did.

Jerod Mayo didn't even relieve himself of his uniform, so badly did he want the damn thing over with. He broke the silence first trying to expedite the process: "Let's go! Let's go!"

BenJarvus Green-Ellis barely moved his mouth to shape his words, as if that would soften their reality. "Football is a game that's played where everything's earned. Nothing is given to nobody. The Giants earned it." His is not a dynamic personality anyway; Sunday night, Green-Ellis looked broken.

James Ihedigbo took his corner podium like a wounded wolf. He bared his teeth on every answer, stubbornly refusing to show weakness. "I don't think there's one play they beat us out there," he growled.

Rob Gronkowski was heartbreakingly gracious. "We'll have more chances." The optimism betrayed his youth -- and his remarkable talent. Confidence, naivety -- both -- fueled his optimism. You wanted to believe him.

The rest ranged from near-tears regret (Wes Welker) to broad-minded determination. (Kyle Arrington). And all of it happened in startling proximity to the Super Bowl Champion Giants.

Figuratively, the teams were separated by an ocean of a designation: winners, losers. Literally, all that stood between them were those indifferent black curtains.

The PA system's boom of player announcements cut awkwardly into the Patriots' efforts. "I can't hear you," more than a few said.

Eli Manning's availability was pronounced too loud.

Finally, it was time to pack up and go home. Today they went to Gillette, packed up, and went home from 2011 for good.

Until the conversation can begin again.

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins, looking for a spark after terrible, back-to-back losses to the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings, are hoping the return of Matt Beleskey from a knee injury can help provide the inspiration. 

The blue-collar left winger has missed the past 23 games with a torn MCL in his right knee suffered in early December against the Buffalo Sabres, but now he’s easing back into the lineup on the fourth line in Friday night’s showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Beleskey was skating with Dominic Moore and Austin Czarnik on the fourth line at morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena and should be expected to throw a few hard hits and play with some intensity in his return.

“I’m ready to go and excited to get back out there,” said Beleskey, who has been skating with the team for roughly a week after giving the knee sufficient time to heal. “I’ve just got to keep it simple and do what I do well: Be hard on pucks, take the body and just try and find your groove. You don’t want to expect too much in your first game back, but you just want to be able to contribute.

“’I’ve been saving [the pent-up energy] for a while, so I’m ready to get back out there and hopefully provide a spark for us.”

The Beleskey return also provides the player with a bit of a reset button after a slow start to the season that saw him with two goals and five points along with a minus-6 rating in 24 games played for the Black and Gold prior to his injury. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairs against the Blackhawks based on morning skate today:

Marchand-Bergeron-Vatrano

Schaller-Krejci-Pastrnak

Spooner-Nash-Backes/Hayes

Beleskey/Blidh-Moore-Czarnik

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-Liles

 

Rask

Thomas on not getting All-Star start: 'It hurts but I’ll be all right’

Thomas on not getting All-Star start: 'It hurts but I’ll be all right’

WALTHAM, Mass. –  Isaiah Thomas stood before the media throng on Friday afternoon at the Celtics’ practice facility and answered all the questions with the usual truthful tone sprinkled with a bit of humor.
 
But you could sense that he was still bitter about the results announced by the NBA on Thursday as to who will be the starters in next month’s All-Star Game.
 
Cleveland’s LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler were the frontcourt starters announced by the league. In the backcourt you will find Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, who finished in a tie with Thomas in this first season in which fans, media and players all have a say in who will be the game’s starting five, as opposed to past seasons in which the starters were chosen strictly by fans.
 
DeRozan and Thomas finished in a tie under the voting system, but DeRozan moved ahead of Thomas due to a tie-breaker (fan vote), in which DeRozan had about 41,000 more votes than Thomas.
 
“It’s not the end of the world; it’s all good,” said Thomas. “I was disappointed, but those guys deserve it as well. I did everything I could in my control to put myself in position to be a starter. It’s not the end of the world.”
 
Especially knowing that the coaches will vote him on to the team for the second year in a row.
 
But for Thomas to be even in the conversation speaks to how the league’s new system of choosing All-Star starters, makes the whole choosing of starters about more than just a popularity contest, which is the irony of Thomas being left off the starting five – it ultimately came down to DeRozan receiving more votes from fans than Thomas.
 
“I didn’t really look at it. I didn’t look at what the reason was, but it is what it is,” Thomas said. “I’ll use it as motivation. I have to get better. That’s all I took out of that. I’m not where I want to be.”
 
Thomas finished fourth in fan voting for the starting nod, but was second among players and first among Eastern Conference guards among the media.
 
“I appreciate everybody who voted for me, especially you [media] guys,” Thomas said. “The media showed me some love and then my peers showed me love too.”
 
But as far as coming so close to being an All-Star starter and not making it, Thomas said, “It hurts but I’ll be alright. I’ll use it as motivation and keep going.”
 
Thomas is having a banner season that has elevated his name and game into the conversation for the league’s MVP award that so far is being led by Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
 
He averages 28.7 points per game, which is tops among Eastern Conference players and fourth overall. 

Among his more notable accomplishments this season, he scored a franchise-record 29 points in the fourth quarter of a win over Miami, and in the same game, wound up scoring a career-high 52 points.
 
Thomas isn’t the only NBA player who has had a season that most would believe would result in him being an All-Star starter.
 
“You look in the west, [Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook] averages a triple-double and he didn’t get in [to start],” Thomas said. “I guess…I’ll let everybody debate for me and argue for me. Those guys that made it who start, they deserved it.”