Author: Dan Feldman

Jared Sullinger assists Isaiah Thomas from his back (video)

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No wonder 76ers coach Brett Brown was so flummoxed.

Not only did his team get beat to loose balls, Philadelphia got beat in transition while the outlet passer was lying on the floor and surveying the court.

If you’re a Comcast subscriber in Boston, you can stream tonight’s Celtics-Wizards game here.

Kobe Bryant first player with 30 million career All-Star votes

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 17:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference smiles during the 2013 NBA All-Star game at the Toyota Center on February 17, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Kobe Bryant has received a sendoff into retirement he never expected – especially with All-Star voting.

Of course, fans made him a starter. They’d done so the last 17 All-Star games. That wasn’t going to change now.

But they made him the overall vote leader for the first time in three years – and did so convincingly. Kobe received 287,289 more votes than second-place Stephen Curry. That’s the second largest difference between the top two vote getters since Michael Jordan was dominating the field. (Kevin Garnett topped LeBron James by 290,317 votes in 2008.)

This final-season surge has made Kobe the first player in NBA history with 30 million career All-Star votes.

All 26 players with at least 8 million career All-Star votes:

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Player Career All-Star votes
Kobe Bryant 30,260,939
Shaquille O’Neal 23,834,598
LeBron James 23,726,274
Kevin Garnett 21,570,151
Tim Duncan 19,668,775
Dwyane Wade 18,497,921
Allen Iverson 17,808,867
Vince Carter 16,699,755
Yao Ming 15,512,453
Dwight Howard 15,398,416
Michael Jordan 15,104,506
Carmelo Anthony 14,184,030
Tracy McGrady 13,706,074
Jason Kidd 12,534,211
Grant Hill 11,932,259
Steve Nash 10,458,675
Charles Barkley 10,369,853
Dirk Nowitzki 10,326,304
Hakeem Olajuwon 9,685,533
Chris Paul 9,545,617
Karl Malone 8,974,323
Scottie Pippen 8,967,648
Kevin Durant 8,842,402
Amar’e Stoudemire 8,609,752
Ray Allen 8,320,090
Magic Johnson 8,150,450

Only votes of players on the NBA’s final annual leaderboard are counted.

How did Kobe get here?

He passed Shaq for the all-time lead in 2012, becoming the sixth player to close a season as the cumulative All-Star vote leader.

Here are the paths of all six, including Bob McAdoo, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan:

David Blatt first coach in a decade fired season after Finals appearance

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Head coach David Blatt of the Cleveland Cavaliers speaks to the media after their loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game Six of the 2015 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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David Blatt had the best-ever record ever by a coach fired mid-season, but his success wasn’t a flash in the pan. He also guided the Cavaliers to last season’s NBA Finals.

In that sense, Blatt’s firing is even more surprising.

Blatt obviously had to win more than his peers. That’s the burden of coaching LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and an expensive supporting cast. But Blatt isn’t the first coach to have major talent at his disposal. That’s often enough to win, and winning usually allows a coach to keep his job for a while – especially after reaching the Finals.

Now, Blatt has become just the eighth coach to be forced out within a season of reaching the Finals. The other seven:

2005 Detroit Pistons – Larry Brown

Brown took the Pistons to back-to-back Finals, beating the Lakers in 2004 and losing to the Spurs in 2005. But Detroit became tired of Brown’s job-hunting ways and fired him in the offseason. If the Pistons had waited, they might have avoided this list. It seemed quite possible Brown would resign to coach the Knicks, who did end up hiring him.

Detroit hired Flip Saunders, who reached three conference finals in three seasons but never got further. It was only downhill from there.

2003 New Jersey Nets – Byron Scott

Scott coached the Nets to back-to-back Finals losses when the Eastern Conference was at its weakest. A 22-20 start allowed New Jersey to appease star Jason Kidd, who reportedly wanted Scott gone. (Their relationship hasn’t gotten much better over the years.)

The Nets promoted Lawrence Frank, who never reached the conference finals as the rest of the conference caught up.

1977 Philadelphia 76ers – Gene Shue

In the midst of a season that would in the 76ers’ first Finals in a decade, owner Fitz Dixon said to Shue after a loss, “What’s your excuse tonight?” Safe to say, Dixon disliked Shue. But it’s tough to fire a coach who just guided a turnaround. So, Dixon waited until three straight losses dropped Philadelphia to 2-4 the next season.

At least Dixon chose well when replacing Shue. Billy Cunningham won nearly 70% of his games in eight seasons coaching the 76ers, and he guided them to the 1983 title.

1969 Los Angeles Lakers – Butch Van Breda Kolff

In Game 7 of the Finals, Wilt Chamberlain benched himself with an injury Van Breda Kolff deemed to be minor. When Chamberlain said he was ready to return, the coach kept his star on the bench. The Lakers lost by two points to the Celtics.

Van Breda Kolff technically resigned to take over the lesser Pistons, but he was forced out according to Steven Travers and Sam Smith. “I didn’t see any foreseeable future there,” Van Breda Kolff said of Los Angeles.

1961 St. Louis Hawks – Paul Seymour

Get ready for several St. Louis Hawks coaches from the era of owner Ben Kerner.

Seymour guided the Hawks to the Finals in his lone full season as their head coach, but a 5-9 start and his reliance on rookie Cleo Hill did him in the next season. Seymour accused veterans Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan and Clyde Lovellette of opposing Hill starting. There are mixed accounts whether that was due racism – Hill was black – or established players just not wanting to share the ball with a rookie.

Either way, Andrew Levane and then Pettit finished coaching the Hawks to their only non-playoff season in an 18-year span.

1960 St. Louis Hawks – Ed Macauley

As Macauley told it, Kerner hired Seymour as a replacement coach for the following season when the Hawks lost two straight to fall behind 3-2 in the division finals. But St. Louis rallied to win Games 6 and 7 and even pushed the Celtics to seven games in the NBA Finals.

Macauley accepted his fate and fulfilled his contract as general manager.

1958 St. Louis Hawks – Alex Hannum

Hannum is the only coach on this list fired after winning a championship. Kerner struck again.

Peter Finney of NOLA.com:

Kerner gave Hannum a two-year contract. A year later, he asked for a raise. If he didn’t get one, he said, he’d go to work full time in his sideline, as a carpenter. Kerner fired him.

“He did a great job, but he wasn’t my type of guy, ” Kerner said. “He was hammer and nails. He wasn’t loyal.”

David Blatt’s Cavaliers best team ever to change coach mid-season

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt is restrained by assistant coach Tyronn Lue as Blatt argues a call during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. Golden State won 89-83. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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David Blatt had a 30-11 record as coach of the Cavaliers this season before they fired him.

He also had LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Great players help coaches produce great records, making it difficult for outsiders to assess coaches. Poor players create the same problem, but they also shorten coaching tenures. When in doubt, teams dump losers and stick with winners.

That’s part of what makes Blatt’s firing so shocking. How bad could he be while winning 73% of his games? He might not have been up to the standard, but that type of record usually gives a coach cover.

That historically wasn’t the case here.

Cleveland had the best record of any team changing, let alone firing, a coach mid-season.

Just six non-interim coaches had ever won more than 60% of their games in a season without finishing it:

1979-80 Los Angeles Lakers: Jack McKinney, 10-4 (71%)

McKinney suffered a serious head injury in a bicycle crash. Assistant coach Paul Westhead took over, went 50-18 and guided the Lakers to the title.

2004-05 Dallas Mavericks: Don Nelson, 42-22 (66%)

The Mavericks had made assistant Avery Johnson the coach-in-waiting. Nelson just accelerated the process, resigning in March to hand Johnson the reigns. Dallas finished a blistering 16-2 under Johnson but lost in the second round.

1999-00 Phoenix Suns: Danny Ainge, 13-7 (65%)

Ainge stunningly resigned in his fourth season season as Phoenix’s coach, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. Scott Skiles was promoted, went 40-22 and reached the second round.

1988-89 Utah Jazz: F. Layden, 11-6 (65%)

Layden said he was tired of the pressure of coaching, and he walked away. His replacement handled the burden just a little longer – 23 seasons. Jerry Sloan took over and had a fantastic coaching career, but he didn’t win a playoff game that first season.

1981-82 Los Angeles: Paul Westhead, 7-4 (64%)

Westhead got fired for a simple reason: He feuded with Magic Johnson. That got Johnson labeled a coach killer, but fans came around when Johnson helped Pat Riley win a title that season (and in 1985, 1987 and 1988).

1982-83 New Jersey Nets: Larry Brown, 47-29 (62%)

Brown was coaching the Nets to their best record since joining the NBA from the ABA when he took the job at Kansas. Brown wanted to finish the season, but owner Joe Taub told Brown “it would be best if you go now.” Assistant Bill Blair coached the final six games of the season, going 2-4 and then getting swept in a best-of-three playoff series.

So, there is precedent for a team winning it all after changing coaches during the season. The Lakers did it after changing coaches due to both choice (Westhead to Riley) and circumstance (McKinney to Westhead).

Cleveland very much did this by choice.

The question now: Can Tyronn Lue be the next Pat Riley?

Carmelo Anthony over Pau Gasol the closest vote for starting in NBA All-Star history

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 29:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks takes a shot against the Chicago Bulls during a game at Madison Square Garden in New York City on October 29, 2014.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Plenty of people were amused by Zaza Pachulia nearly starting the All-Star game.

The Mavericks center fell just 14,227 votes shy of Kawhi Leonard for the final Western Conference frontcourt starting spot. That’s a close call, especially for a journeyman mid-level starter like Pachulia. But that’s still a decent margin in the grand scheme.

Carmelo Anthony, on the other hand, claimed the last starting  spot among Eastern Conference frontcourt players over Pau Gasol by only 360 votes.

360!

That’s nothing. It’s one tweet by anyone somewhat prominent with the subsequent retweets. It’s one group of friends voting across the various mediums each day in a week.

It’s also – by far – the closest margin for starting in the history of NBA All-Star fan voting.

The next closest, A.C. Green over Karl Malone for Western Conference forward in 1990, had more than more than triple the margin.

Here are the 10 closest calls for starting the All-Star game:

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Race Players Voting difference
2015 East Frontcourt Carmelo Anthony over Pau Gasol 360
1990 West Forward A.C. Green over Karl Malone 1,226
1984 West Center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over Ralph Sampson 1,817
1990 West Forward A.C. Green over Xavier McDaniel 2,029
1990 West Guard John Stockton over Derek Harper 2,562
2007 East Guard Gilbert Arenas over Vince Carter 3,010
1981 West Forward Walter Davis over Alex English 3,013
1975 East Guard Earl Monroe over Jo Jo White 3,291
1990 West Guard John Stockton over Clyde Drexler 3,766
1977 West Guard Norm Van Lier over Slick Watts 4,200