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.

Buddy Hield on Kings getting booed at home: ‘That’s how Sacramento fans are’

Kings guard Buddy Hield
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Buddy Hield is quite familiar with frustration amid the Kings’ disappointing season.

Sacramento fans showed theirs Wednesday, booing the Kings during their home loss to the Mavericks.

Buddy Hield, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“Everybody is frustrated, it’s not even them, we’re trying to figure it out too,” Buddy Hield said following the loss. “But it’s the home team and we get booed…we don’t agree with it, but they’re going to voice their opinion.

“I understand their frustration, but like I said, I’m going to keep shooting the ball,” Hield continued. “When I make a three they like me, when I don’t, they hate you. That’s how Sacramento fans are, man, so you’ve got to embrace it.”

Hield seemingly isn’t looking to pick a fight with fans. He made a point to empathize with their frustration.

But I don’t think he’s being fair, either.

Kings fans are far more loyal than swinging between love and hate depending whether or not a shot falls. They’re fed up after 13 – going on 14 – straight seasons missing the playoffs. This year has been particularly discouraging, as Sacramento has backtracked from fun and fast to sad and slow. Losing to Luka Doncica particular grievance – only adds to the irritation.

The Kings’ problems have spanned multiple owners, executives, coaches and players. So, booing this group isn’t totally fair, either. But this is who’s in front of the fans.

If this Sacramento team plays hard and together, fans will embrace it – and stick with it through thinner times.

76ers play 6-on-5 vs. Bulls (video)

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The 76ers found one way to solve their spacing issues.

Philadelphia showed good ball movement, finding Furkan Korkmaz for an open corner 3-pointer. The catch? Korkmaz got open, because the 76ers had six players on the floor.

I love Kyle O'Quinn trying to slink off the court. He wanted to get away with it. Tobias Harris, who jogged to the bench, was practically begging to get caught.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised how quickly the Bulls noticed the violation. It’s not as if their defense scrambling is anything new.

Thirty days after being called ‘day-to-day,’ Karl-Anthony Towns returns to Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns
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Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders called Karl-Anthony Towns “day-to-day” with a left knee sprain.

That was 30 days ago.

Towns finally returned to Minnesota’s lineup, starting against the Pacers tonight.

While out due to his knee, Towns also battled illness. That undoubtedly complicated matters. But the Timberwolves repeatedly calling him “questionable” raises questions about their commitment to transparency. That’s important in an NBA embracing gambling.

Towns’ 17-game absence is a rare dent in his durability. In his first four seasons, Towns missed only five games – two due to a car crash.

Towns is Minnesota’s best player. He could provide a jolt to a team hanging in the playoff race. But, after a strong start, the Timberwolves began to tumble even before Towns went down. They’re probably won’t make the playoffs, though their odds are definitely better with him. At least he returns in time to make an All-Star case.

Knicks’ Marcus Morris after 23-point loss to Suns: ‘We were a better team’

Knicks forward Marcus Morris
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Marcus Morris loathes the Suns.

Unfortunately for him, his Knicks lost to the Suns, 121-98, yesterday.

Morris, via Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News:

“Kudos to Phoenix, but at the end of the day, we were a better team,” Marcus Morris said postgame. “We should have got that win tonight.”

Nahhh.

The Knicks stink. They’ve lost seven of eight. Morris talked about energy, and New York’s could be better. But this is what happens on losing teams. The Knicks’ roster just isn’t good enough. It’s not more complicated than that.

The Suns aren’t great, either. But they’re much better than New York – no matter how much that grinds Morris.