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Brad Stevens gets Eastern Conference All-Star coaching job as Celtics beat Lakers 113-107

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BOSTON (AP) Isaiah Thomas isn’t the only Boston Celtics representative in the NBA All-Star Game anymore.

With Toronto’s loss to Orlando earlier Friday night, Brad Stevens was assured his spot as coach of the Eastern Conference and will join Thomas next Sunday in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, Thomas padded his All-Star credentials by scoring 17 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter as the surging Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-107.

“(Stevens) should put me in that starting lineup,” Thomas joked. “That’s going to be good.”

It’s the first career All-Star appearance for Stevens, in his fourth season with the Celtics.

“What’s nice about it is there’s no politics and there’s no subjectivity,” Stevens said. “(It’s) what your team has accomplished and that’s a credit to the players in the locker room.”

Al Horford added 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as Boston (32-18) won its sixth consecutive game. Thomas logged his 34th straight game with 20 or more points and is six shy of John Havlicek’s franchise-record streak.

Jae Crowder had 18 points, Jaylen Brown added 12 and Terry Rozier scored 10 for the Celtics.

Lou Williams led the Lakers with 21 points. D'Angelo Russell scored 20, Larry Nance Jr. had 18 and Nick Young 17 as Los Angeles (17-36) lost for the fifth time in six games.

“We stopped moving the ball. We stopped trusting each other,” coach Luke Walton said. “Because of it, we don’t make shots, and then our defense gets lazy.”

Thomas scored seven points in the third as the Celtics broke the game open and led by as many as 16. The Lakers cut it to 82-74 after three but couldn’t get the deficit below six.

“They were all making big shots tonight,” Nance said. “Hats off to them.”

Thomas had a chance to become the first player in Celtics history with three straight 40-point games, but said he wasn’t aware of that until afterward.

“I didn’t know about it or I would have taken the last shot,” Thomas said.

Boston opened the game on a 7-0 run before Russell’s 3-pointer put the Lakers up 15-14 with 7:34 left in the first quarter. Rozier’s buzzer-beating 3 drew the Celtics to 30-29 after one. Thomas had 12 points in the period.

Rozier’s floater a minute into the second put the Celtics ahead for good, and Boston stretched its lead to 62-51 at halftime.

The Lakers and Celtics meet again March 3 in Los Angeles.

TIP-INS

Lakers: F Julius Randle was out after playing sparingly in Thursday’s game at Washington as he recovers from pneumonia. Randle missed two games before logging six minutes against the Wizards. “Coming back from pneumonia, it’s not just a normal sickness,” Walton said.

Celtics: G Avery Bradley (sore right Achilles) missed his ninth consecutive game. Bradley felt good after working out and doing some on-court work Friday. “We’re still progressing at a conservative rate,” Stevens said. “We want him feeling 110 percent.” … F Kelly Olynyk played after sitting out Wednesday in Toronto with a sore left shoulder.

TIEBREAKER

Boston and Los Angeles began the night with with 3,252 wins, tied for the most in NBA history. Before their loss, the Lakers held at least a share of the league’s all-time victories mark since 2001. The odds of both teams entering Friday’s game with the same win total was 1 in 8,292.

“I think it’s a unique-enough rivalry that 100 years from now it will probably be tied again,” Stevens said.

MINI MAMBA

Lakers great Kobe Bryant had a knack for late-game dramatics throughout his storied career. Thomas is developing one, too.

Thomas leads the league in fourth-quarter scoring (10.8 points per game), but laughed off the comparison to Bryant, who retired after last season.

“Nah, you can’t put my name with Kobe,” Thomas said. “Maybe 15 years from now hopefully, but I’m not close to him.”

UP NEXT

Lakers: Continue a five-game road trip in New York on Monday.

Celtics: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday in Paul Pierce‘s last regular-season game in Boston.

Kevin Durant cops to tweets, calls elements of them ‘childish’ and ‘idiotic’

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Kevin Durant – tweeting in the third person, suggesting he forget to switch to a secret Twitter account – said he left the Thunder because he didn’t like the organization or playing for Billy Donovan and that Oklahoma City’s surrounding cast around himself and Russell Westbrook was lacking. Durant also appeared to have a second Instagram account he has used to insult critics.

Durant at TechCrunch:

Durant:

I do have other another Instagram account, but that’s just for my friends and family. So, I wouldn’t say I was using that to clap back at anybody.

But I use Twitter to engage with the fans. I think it’s a great way to engage with basketball fans.

But I happened to take it a little too far, and that’s what happens sometimes when I get into these basketball debates. Or what I really love is just to play basketball. I went a little too far.

And I don’t regret clapping back at anybody or talking to my fans on Twitter. I do regret using my former coach’s name and the former organization that I played for. That was childish. That was idiotic. All those type of words. I regret doing that, and I apologize to him for doing that.

But I don’t think I’ll ever stop engaging with my fans. I think they really enjoy it, and I think it’s a good way to connect us all. But I will scale back a little bit right now and just focus on playing basketball. So, I want to move on from that. It was tough to deal with yesterday. I was really upset with myself. But definitely want to move on and keep playing basketball. But I still want to interact with my fans, as well.

Durant can defend himself all he wants on social media. Fans, even those who detest him, do enjoy the interaction.

But an anonymous-looking account defending Durant provides no joy to those fans. They don’t – or at least didn’t – know they were interacting with the famous basketball star. This is something else entirely.

And it sure looks like Durant used his secret Instagram account to clap back at fans. Via SB Nation:

Durant denying that really makes it hard to accept this as him coming clean.

Mostly, Durant just opened himself to numerous follow-up questions:

Did he really dislike the Thunder organization? Did he really dislike playing for Donovan? If yes to either question, why? If no to either question, why say that? How does lying serve the fans he’s claiming he wants to engage?

Dwight Howard changes story, blames Magic front office for bringing up firing Stan Van Gundy

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While sipping from a can of Pepsi, Stan Van Gundy calmly explained to the assembled media that Magic management told him Dwight Howard wanted the coach fired. Then, an unsuspecting Howard walked up and put his arm around Van Gundy. Van Gundy slinked away, leaving Howard to answer questions.

That 2012 press conference was an all-time great NBA moment.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

To hear Howard tell it, he has been the victim of more subtle misunderstandings than Larry David. The excruciatingly awkward press conference, when Stan Van Gundy confirmed that Howard was lobbying the Magic front office to fire him, only for an unsuspecting Howard to join Van Gundy and deny what the coach claimed? “That previous summer, the front office asked me about Stan, and I told them I thought he was losing his voice with the team. But they were the ones who said they should start looking for other coaches.”

Howard already admitted in 2014 he told the Magic he thought Van Gundy should have been fired after the 2011 playoffs. Howard even griped that Orlando didn’t listen to him!

I get that Howard is (again) trying to rehabilitate his image, but he has to do a better job of keeping his story straight.

Bulls hire Doug Collins as senior advisor

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Doug Collins burns out. Burns out his players, burns out himself. That was his reputation through 11 seasons coaching the Bulls, Pistons, Wizards and 76ers.

When Collins left Philadelphia in 2013, he declared he was done coaching. There was just too much pressure, he said.

Perhaps, Collins has found a role that better suits him.

Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

In a surprise announcement, the Chicago Bulls have brought former coach Doug Collins back into the fold, naming him a senior advisor to Executive Vice President John Paxson.

Even among NBA personnel, Collins was a basketball expert in his time. Whether he has kept up in a rapidly evolving league is an open question.

It won’t hurt having his voice in the room. It might hurt if the Bulls lean too heavily on it.

Hopefully, everyone entered this arrangement for the right reasons. Paxson played for Collins in Chicago. Collins’ son – Chris Collins – coaches nearby Northwestern. An overreliance on comfort won’t yield positive results. The Bulls need forward-thinkers, not just familiar faces. Successful executives put in a lot of work and aren’t just hanging around to be close with family.

This hire probably won’t move the needle much, but there’s certainly a chance it could – in either direction.

Dwight Howard considered retiring in 2015

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Dwight Howard missed half the 2014-15 season due to injury, and he was investigated (but not charged) for child abuse that year.

But he remained defiantly confident.

He said he planned to play another 10 years. When his Rockets lost in the playoffs, he declared he was “still a champion.”

The picture behind the scenes wasn’t quite so rosy, though.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

At a low point with the Rockets, after the 2014–15 season, he considered retiring. The jolly giant who supposedly had too much fun on the floor was miserable. “The joy,” Howard says, “was sucked out of it.” But what would retirement accomplish? He had to change his life regardless of his occupation. So he did what his teenage self would have done. He saw a pastor.

Calvin Simmons has ministered to hundreds of professional athletes in the past decade, including Adrian Peterson, so he is familiar with dramatic falls from grace. “Dwight had gone from the darling of the NBA to the black sheep,” Simmons says. “He realized he had done some things wrong and needed to change, but at the beginning he just wanted to share.”

“I saw him cleanse everything,” Simmons says, “and cut away the clutter around him, from a business manager to a security guard to all these financial people.” The sweep included his parents, whom he didn’t call for nearly two years. “That was hard,” Howard sighs. “It’s really hard to tell your parents, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I have to back away from you.’ They didn’t understand. They were very upset. But I wanted a genuine relationship with them that didn’t have anything to do with money or judgment.”

Howard’s fortunes didn’t exactly improve.

He feuded with James Harden, chafed at his role in Houston and endured public questions about why nobody likes him. Howard signed with his hometown Hawks, had a somewhat resurgent season, but again ended the year unhappy. Atlanta took major long-term salary just to dump him on the Hornets.

Howard is now a good situation in Charlotte, where the coach reveres him. This looks like Howard’s best chance of getting back on track.

But what if he doesn’t? That’s what I wonder when reading about 2015. If he nearly retired then, what happens if he doesn’t thrive with the Hornets and is faced with minimum-contract offers and small roles when he becomes a free agent at age 33 in 2019. Will he retire?

That’s obviously a ways off. For now, Howard will have every opportunity to right himself in Charlotte.