Paul Pierce should be used to being hacked on the court -- we're looking at you, Dwight Howard. But the apparent hacking that took place after the Celtics' 95-92 victory over the Magic in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night is a new and also unappealing experience for the Celtics star.
Pierce's representatives are denying that he posted four brash tweets that appeared on his Twitter account (@paulpierce34) last night in the immediate aftermath of the Celtics' victory, saying that his account was hacked by an unknown outside source.
The most controversial tweet said: "Anybody got a BROOM?" a reference to a potential four-game sweep by the Celtics, who lead the series, 2-0.
Athlete Interactive, which represents Pierce's digital media initiatives, tweeted the following today at 3 a.m.: "That is NOT @paulpierce34 tweeting -- the previous four tweets are all courtesy of a hack. Looking in to it."
Shortly thereafter, @athleteint added this tweet: "Tweets on May 18, 2010 from @paulpierce34 are not Paul Pierce. The account was hacked. Twitter has been notified and is investigating."
And to get the message across one more time, this appeared on Pierce's account at noon today: "Hacked in game and post game while on podium. Disregard chatter."
David Neiman, who manages Pierce's account for Athlete Interactive, said during a phone interview this afternoon that the agency became suspicious that it wasn't Pierce sending the tweets almost immediately after the game.
"The point when we realized it wasn't him was when he was still speaking to people [after the game]," 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, you know?"
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 previous post went up at 11:07 p.m. May 13, 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 night's four controversial tweets have all been removed from the page, though Neiman said they were initially left them 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. this morning, 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 its 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."
A skeptic might wonder if 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, Magic star Dwight Howard was asked about Pierce's tweets during his postgame press conference. He replied: "Pride comes before the fall."
And it should be noted that Pierce was in a confident 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 showed up on his account; both Ray Allen and Glen Davis have found themselves in similar circumstances within the past year, with Allen attributing a vulgar tweet to a hacker.
But there is strong evidence that Pierce was indeed hacked. His previous tweets on his 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 Tuesday night came from an address in Michigan, according to a search of coordinates on Google Maps. Also, Pierce tweets via his cell phone while Tuesday night's tweets were sent from Twitterific.
"Paul has never used that 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?' "