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SCOWLEYS: Erik Spoelstra, Tom Thibodeau, Frank Vogel on cold seat

Miami Hecoach Erik Spoelstrwatches during first half his team's NBA basketball game against IndianPacers Wednesday Dec. 18 2013 Miami. (AP

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra watches during the first half of his team's NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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Updated: January 30, 2014 6:33AM



’Tis the season that NBA coaches start disappearing. Disappointment through the first few months leads to firings.

There won’t be as much turnover as last season, but vacancies are coming soon, especially in the Eastern Conference, where bad teams are fighting for the six playoff spots below the Pacers and Heat.

The three coaches in the East with job security just happen to be the best coaches in the league based on what they’ve done this season and in recent seasons. Here are the three best coaches in the East:

3. Frank Vogel (Pacers) — Vogel carries himself as if he should be No. 1 on this list, and that smugness is one of his strengths. He has his players believing it’s them against the world. His team’s defense-first mentality could give the Heat problems as Miami attempts to reach its fourth consecutive NBA Finals.

2. Tom Thibodeau (Bulls) — No coach has done more with less because of injuries the last three seasons. But as far as X’s and O’s and coaching his team up, especially on the defensive end, few can compete with Thibodeau.

1. Erik Spoelstra (Heat) — Those who think Spoelstra has the easiest job in the league have no understanding of the game. To get three elite players to buy into the team-first approach at this level might be one of the more difficult tasks for any coach. His game-management skills also are underrated.

Player of the week

David Lee (Warriors power forward) — Golden State continues to play at a high level, and Lee has been a big reason why. He entered the weekend averaging 22.6 points, 10 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his last three games.

Team of the week

Pacers — After back-to-back losses to the Pistons and Heat, they got back on track with three consecutive victories to hold on to the best record in the East.

The big five

1. Heat, 2. Pacers, 3. Thunder, 4. Trail Blazers, 5. Spurs.

Awful for Andrew

The three teams bad enough to start tanking in hopes of drafting Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins: 1. Bucks, 2. Jazz, 3. Kings.

Big Number

4 Games in which Taj Gibson has scored at least 20 points. In his first four seasons with the Bulls, Gibson had only five 20-point games.

Two to watch

Portland at Oklahoma City, 7 p.m. Tuesday — The Trail Blazers are no longer sneaking up on anyone, and this will be a huge battle for supremacy in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio, 7:30 p.m. Saturday — After a slow start, the Clippers are finally playing up to expectations. They’ll need to against the Spurs.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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