THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Trash talk on Twitter may not be the Truth

PAUL PIERCE Was it or wasn’t it him? PAUL PIERCE
Was it or wasn’t it him?
By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / May 20, 2010

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Paul Pierce isn’t exempt from being hacked on the basketball court. But the apparent hacking that took place after the Celtics’ 95-92 victory over the Magic Tuesday night is a new and unappealing experience for the star forward.

Pierce’s representatives denied yesterday that he posted four brash tweets that appeared on his Twitter account (@paulpierce34) in the immediate aftermath of the Celtics’ Game 2 victory in the Eastern Conference semifinals, saying that his account was hacked by an outside source.

The most provocative tweet said: “Anybody got a BROOM?’’ a reference to a potential four-game sweep by the Celtics, who lead the series, 2-0.

Before that, there were tweets reading:

“What’s happening?’’

“You know we going crazy tonight. sorry Dwight.’’

“What I tell ya? Good defense, though. Time to get ready for Thursday.’’

The second tweet refers to Magic star Dwight Howard, while the third apparently was meant to refer to Game 3 in Boston, which actually is Saturday night.

Athlete Interactive, which represents Pierce’s digital media initiatives, tweeted the following yesterday at 3 a.m.: “That is NOT @paulpierce34 tweeting — the previous four tweets are all courtesy of a hack. Looking in to it.’’

To emphasize the message, the following appeared on Pierce’s account at noon yesterday: “Hacked in game and post game while on podium. Disregard chatter.’’

David Neiman, who manages Pierce’s account for Athlete Interactive, said the agency became suspicious about the tweets almost immediately after the game.

“The point when we realized it wasn’t him was when he was still speaking to people,’’ said Neiman. “Someone called us from Orlando and said, ‘Is Paul tweeting?’ because a message came up when Paul was at the podium. So it seemed kind of unlikely that he was doing it.’’

Neiman said he immediately texted Pierce to ask if the tweets were his.

“I just said, ‘Someone’s posting messages to your Twitter account. This isn’t you, is it?’ He said no, he hadn’t posted anything in several days. So I told him we were going to inform Twitter that he had been hacked.’’

Pierce’s most recent comment before Tuesday went up at 11:07 p.m. last Thursday, when he said: “Halfway home that’s all here come them CELTICS.’’ That came at the completion of their series victory in six games over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tuesday’s tweets have been removed from the page, though Neiman said they were initially left up to aid any investigation Twitter might perform.

“We weren’t really sure how everything works for Twitter on the back end, so we thought it might help them,’’ Neiman said. “But by 4 a.m., people who were getting up early were starting to re-tweet the messages again, so at that point it just seemed to make more sense to take them all down.’’

Neiman acknowledged that it has been challenging to connect with Twitter on the matter.

“I love Twitter, and it’s been very beneficial to many of our clients, but to be honest, it’s been difficult to get in touch with anyone to help,’’ Neiman said. “We actually had to file a support ticket. So as of now, I still don’t think it’s been resolved.’’

E-mail inquiries to Twitter about the matter were not returned.

A skeptic might wonder whether Pierce and his representatives were going with the we-were-hacked defense because of the immediate fallout and reaction to the comments; the last thing the Celtics want to do with a 2-0 lead in the series is rile up the Magic.

In yet another example of how quickly information spreads in the digital media age, Howard was asked about Pierce’s tweets during Tuesday’s postgame press conference. Howard replied, “Pride comes before a fall.’’

Pierce appeared to be in a cheerful mood after the game, telling ESPN sideline reporter Doris Burke, “We’re coming home to close it out,’’ then winking at the camera.

It’s not the first time a Celtics player has said he was hacked after regrettable tweets; both Ray Allen and Glen Davis have found themselves in similar circumstances within the past year.

But there is evidence that Pierce was indeed hacked. His previous tweets on the account — which has more than 1.5 million followers — have come from Boston or Pierce’s location at the time. The four tweets in question came from an address in Michigan, according to a search of coordinates on Google Maps. Also, Pierce typically tweets from his cell phone, while Tuesday night’s tweets were posted via Twitterific software.

“Paul has never used [Twitterific] before,’’ Neiman said. “And the last tweet — ‘Anyone got a broom?’ — it seemed a little over the top, especially for Paul. So it was kind of like, ‘What’s happening here?’ ’’

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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