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.

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

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Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

NEW YORK - Russell Westbrook was voted NBA MVP on Monday night after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles last season.

Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season, and he broke Robertson's single-season record set when he had 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62.

The point guard beat out Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard to succeed Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards.

Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era.

Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966.

"I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards," Brogdon said. "I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot."

Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award.

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and the Rockets' Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve.

The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.

Two of the best moments came during segments that didn't include the NBA's six individual awards.

Bill Russell was presented the first Lifetime Achievement award, welcomed on stage by fellow Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. The 11-time champion as a player and the league's first black coach first pointed at them and joked that he would have kicked their butts, then told them: "You have no idea how much respect I have for you guys."

Former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams was given the SagerStrong Award for the strength he showed after his wife was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City. He was given a colorful jacket like the ones worn by Craig Sager, the longtime Turner Sports reporter who died of cancer this past season.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.