Tyronn Lue had one of the best-ever win-lose records for fired coach

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Tyronn Lue said, when informed by the Cavaliers they were firing David Blatt in 2016, Lue responded: “This is f—– up.”

So, at least Lue is no stranger to the absurdity of a coach getting fired with an impressive record.

Blatt is one of the few fired coaches with a better win percentage than Lue, who succeeded Blatt in Cleveland then got fired yesterday. In his prior three seasons, Lue coached the Cavs to a championship, helped them return to the NBA Finals then – after Kyrie Irving got traded for pieces that whittled down to nearly nothing – guided them back to the Finals again.

Lue won 61% of his games with the Cavaliers (128-83), making him one of just 33 coaches to get fired despite winning at least 60% of his games during his tenure.

Determining who was fired can be tricky, but I included cases where it seems the coach was forced out, even if his contract expired. Consider Phil Jackson with the Bulls in 1998 the minimum bar, give or take, for a coach to be considered fired. Though he seemed ready to leave Chicago, Jackson definitely wasn’t welcome back.

Here’s every coach to win at least 60% of his games on a job and get fired (seasons coached, including partials, listed by the year they ended):

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That list is littered with coaches who piled up good regular seasons then flamed out in the playoffs. After a while (or sometimes very quickly), that usually wears thin.

But that didn’t apply to Lue, who reached the Finals in all three of his prior seasons and finished with a playoff record of 41-20 (67%). Only Jackson (with both the Bulls and his first Lakers stint), Blatt and Paul Westhead got fired from jobs despite their teams performing so well in the postseason.

Here’s every coach to win at least 60% of his playoff games on a job and get fired (seasons coached, including partials, listed by the year they ended):

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Most coach’s with Lue’s résumé buy themselves time to work through down seasons. The Cavs fired him after losing just six regular-season games this year.

Maybe that was the right move. The team was clearly misaligned. Cleveland’s 0-6 record only begins to describe the problems.

But most general managers would’ve given a coach like Lue more benefit of the doubt after all that he accomplished. It’s unlikely the Cavaliers were suddenly going to start winning. Let more of these losses accumulate on his record, and articles like this probably don’t get written.

The big difference is Lue – and Blatt and Mike Brown, who made the regular-season chart above and barely missed the playoff chart by winning 59% of his playoff games – coached LeBron James. Fairly or not, LeBron is a black hole who consumes nearly all credit or blame for his team’s performance. So, while Lue, Blatt and Brown built elite coaching records, that was largely seen as a product of LeBron.

Coaching win percentage is only a moderately accurate way to measure coaching ability. I doubt Lue suddenly became a far worse coach when LeBron left for the Lakers. But if LeBron remained in Cleveland and the Cavs were winning accordingly, Lue probably wouldn’t have gotten fired.

Perhaps, that’s just because Lue was the right coach for a LeBron-led team and the wrong coach for this group. Fit matters with coaching.

But I suspect it’s mostly about record, and 0-6 was too much for management to bear. As imperfect a measure as coaching win percentage is, it’s one that usually determines job status.

Except in a rare case like this, when it doesn’t.

Jaylen Brown: Celtics nicknamed Grant Williams ‘Ben Simmons’ due to missed 3s

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Celtics rookie Grant Williams on 3-pointers in his first 20 games: 0-for-25.

0-for-25!

Nobody else has ever started a season that cold.

Of everyone else to attempt at least 25 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody made fewer than two. Of everyone else to miss all their 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody attempted more than 17.

Finally, Williams made a 3-pointer in Boston’s win over the Cavaliers yesterday.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, via NBC Sports Boston:

We were calling him Ben Simmons for the longest. But he knocked one down, and knocked them down, too. So, shoutout to both of those guys.

Yes, 76ers guard Ben Simmons barely shoots, let alone makes, 3-pointers. But it seems as if Brown realized mid-answer he shouldn’t provide bulletin-board material to a rival.

Too late.

Simmons has gotten called a coward numerous times by people in Boston due to his refusal to shoot 3s. Becoming the butt of the joke with fellow NBA players? That’s something else entirely.

We’ll see how Simmons responds, but many around him – including Philadelphia coach Brett Brown – have been urging him to hoist more 3s. It’s hard to see this inspiring Simmons to actually change his game.

Paul George says there’s more to his Pacers exit: ‘I promise you, I’m not the one to boo’

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In 2017, Paul George told the Pacers he planned to leave in free agency the following year. It wasn’t a trade request, but George knew his message would likely prompt Indiana to deal him. He wanted out.

George said he preferred the Spurs. (Or was it the Lakers?) The Pacers dealt him to the Thunder.

Now with the Clippers, George returned to Indiana and got booed.

George, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”

“… I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George later added. “… I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than I am.”

Maybe George felt he got wronged. Maybe George actually got wronged.

But fans generally side with their favorite team over a star player who chose to leave.

It’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances where Pacers fans would boo someone other than George for his exit. My hunch: His grievances are significant to him but wouldn’t persuade Indiana fans. Still, I’m at least curious about his full story.

LeBron James on 2011 NBA Finals: ‘I lost my love for the game’

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LeBron James became a villain by leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat on The Decision in 2010. He arrived in Miami promising “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships.

By the end of his first season with the Heat, he was beaten down. The Mavericks topped Miami in the NBA Finals, winning the last three games of the series. While Miami blew its 2-1 lead, LeBron averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 turnovers per game. He shot 2-for-12 on 3-pointers and 4-for-10 on free throws.

After Game 6, he callously mocked his critics:

“All the people that were rooting for me to fail… at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today,” James said. “They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.”

ESPN:

LeBron emerged from his funk and led the Heat to consecutive titles. He returned to Cleveland and won another title there. He’s now with the Lakers leading another championship pursuit.

He plays well. He plays smartly. He plays with joy. He often rises to the biggest occasions.

LeBron probably had to go through a setback like the 2011 Finals to sharpen his mental edge. But it’s incredible how far he has come from the defeated player who left that series against Dallas.

Tristan Thompson on Cavaliers anonymously griping about John Beilein: ‘Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now’

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The Athletic – quoting at least three unnamed players – reported the Cavaliers are rebelling against John Beilein’s collegiate coaching style.

Cleveland big Tristan Thompson, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

“Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now,” Thompson said. “You can’t do that s—.

“At the end of the day if you’re going to build a culture and a family, you can’t have that Chatty Patty s— going on. That s— is whack to me. Everyone’s got to look in the mirror, there’s only so much coach can do and there’s only so much we can do. Do we have the best roster in the NBA? No. But we’re going to go out there and compete every night. Guys got to look in the mirror. So I hope whoever reported that was just bulls——g and blamed it on a player.”

That’s quite the rhetoric from Thompson. I wonder whether he has the same energy in the locker room.

Thompson confronting his teammates would certainly raise the stakes. And make no mistake: His teammates are among the unnamed sources. The report not only specifically cited players, it said “Veterans and younger players, from all corners of the roster” are having issues with Beilein.

Even if he supports his coach, that’s a lot for Thompson to take on.

But if he’s looking for a place to start, I have a guess.