NBA All-Star Notebook

Finals award to be named after Russell

By Marc J. Spears and Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / February 15, 2009
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PHOENIX - NBA commissioner David Stern announced yesterday that the award for the Finals MVP will be named after Celtics legend Bill Russell.

"Who better to name this prestigious award for than one of the greatest players of all time and the ultimate champion?" said Stern.

Russell never won the award, which wasn't given out until the 1969 season. The Hall of Famer, whose wife recently died, gracefully accepted the honor while expressing a lot of emotion.

"This is a bittersweet award," said Russell. "I just lost my special partner. But I wanted to thank my teammates because we played a team game quite well. I accept this for my team, and my team included our coach, Red Auerbach, and all my teammates over the years, which is quite flattering.

"This is one of my proudest moments in basketball because I determined early in my career that the only important statistic in basketball is the final score. And so I dedicated my career to playing so that we were always on the positive side of the final score."

Minutes men?
Celtics All-Stars Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce hope to conserve energy for road games against Utah Thursday, Phoenix (Feb. 22), Denver (Feb. 23), and the Los Angeles Clippers (Feb. 25). And Garnett made certain Cleveland coach Mike Brown, who will guide the East team tonight, knows their intentions.

"I'll give [Pierce, Garnett, and Allen] big minutes. I'll do what the fans in Boston want," Brown joked. "All three of those guys can play 47 minutes.

"KG already set me up. The first thing he said to me is, 'Coach, I only want to play about 10 minutes.' I don't know if he heard me bragging that I was going to play him 44, 45 minutes. But he put me in my place right away and he doesn't expect to play more than 10-12 minutes."

Longing for more rest
Allen, Garnett, and Pierce are relishing the All-Star experience.

"I would make the week longer, the festivities," Allen said when asked about suggestions to improve the setup. "We played Wednesday and Thursday, we go there Friday through Sunday, and then we're back at it. We are participating and having a great time, but we are not getting the time off."

Said Garnett: "I wish All-Star break was a week long, then guys could sort of rejuvenate. As physical as it is, it's more mental than anything, and a week definitely wouldn't hurt anybody."

Said Pierce: "If I could change one thing about All-Star, I would do it at one place every year, like football, where you know it will be warm weather."

Robinson: Good stuff
Nate Robinson tugged on Superman's cape - and won. The 5-foot-9-inch Knicks guard beat defending champion Dwight Howard of Orlando in an electrifying slam dunk contest last night, winning 52 percent of fans' votes. Clad in an all-green Knicks uniform with green shoes, Robinson used Howard as a prop in the final round, springboarding over the 6-11 center to jam. "Dwight was a great sport letting me dunk over him," said Robinson, who also won in 2006 . . . Miami's Daequan Cook needed overtime to edge Orlando's Rashard Lewis in the 3-point shootout . . . Chicago's Derrick Rose defeated New Jersey's Devin Harris in the Skills Challenge . . . Fresh off a 46-point performance in the Rookie Challenge, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant won the outdoor H-O-R-S-E competition . . . Stern said Sunday night games during the NBA Finals will begin at 8 p.m. EST, an hour earlier than the other starting times.

Material from the Associated Press was used.

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