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Who will be Raptors’ next coach? Mike Budenholzer? Jerry Stackhouse?

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Dwane Casey led a Raptors team that changed its offensive philosophy this season, won a franchise-record 59 games, and all that earned him the title of Coach of the Year as voted by his peers (and he could win the official NBA award, too).

Friday, Dwane Casey was fired by Toronto.

Beyond the questions of is this fair (no, but life isn’t fair) or is this the smart move comes another big one: Who will be the next coach of the Raptors?

When word of Casey’s impending doom started to circulate around the league a couple of days ago, the buzz was they would go with one of their top assistants, an internal candidate who brings change but not much disruption. However, not long after the firing, the name of former Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer came up. So here are the potential new head coaching candidates for Toronto.

• Mike Budenholzer. Let go by the Hawks and undone more by his unimpressive work as a GM than his coaching acumen. He may be at the top of Masai Ujiri’s wishlist, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is expected to get a close inspection for the Raptors opening, league sources said. Budenholzer met with Milwaukee on Tuesday, league sources said.

Budenholzer is an excellent tactician on both ends of the court — he’s going to be faster with in-game adjustments than Casey. Coach Bud is also a guy who can maximize talent and understands how to build and manage a culture. He would push Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, challenge them in new ways. No question he’d do a good job. Budenholzer also has options — the chance to coach the up-and-coming Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo is tempting (despite questions about ownership there). Or, Budenholzer could sit at home and collect paychecks from the Hawks for a year, spend more time with his family, watch a lot of Judge Judy and get away from it all for a season. We’ll see what Budenholzer decides.

• Nick Nurse. The lead assistant for Casey and the guy credited for re-shaping Toronto’s offensive attack this season, his name came up in a number of other job searches where teams were looking for elite assistants. He has been a head coach at the G-League level, which means he has some experience in the big chair.

• Rex Kalamian. Another of the Raptors’ highly-touted assistant coaches, he was the guy serving more as a defensive coordinator for Toronto this season (the Raptors had the fifth-ranked defense in the NBA during the regular season).

• Jerry Stackhouse. He’s been incredibly impressive as the head coach the past two seasons of the Raptors’ G-League team (the Raptors 905) winning one ring and making it to the Finals the other year. He’s been a strong player-development guy and has the respect of the players around the league.

• Steve Clifford or Stan Van Gundy. If Ujiri decides he wants to go outside the family for the next head coach, and he can’t land Budenholzer, then these guys are available. Clifford is a defensive-minded coach with a good reputation around the league and who led Charlotte to the playoffs. Stan Van Gundy has led a team to the Finals (Orlando) and can get a team to play smart, inside-out basketball. Both of these guys could be fits, but they seem long shots right now.

Mike D’Antoni on Chris Paul suspension: ‘What is he supposed to do?’ (VIDEO)

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The NBA suspended Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul along with the Los Angeles Lakers’ Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram on Sunday.

It was the opinion of the league office that all three players should be suspended for their role in a fight that took place on Saturday night between the Rockets and the Lakers at Staples Center.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni took exception to Paul’s suspension, saying that he thought it was “not equitable” that Paul had to face suspension.

The NBA determined that Rondo indeed did spit in Paul’s face, or at least in the direction of him, directly preceding Paul’s eye poke on Rondo. That kicked things off into full force, and it devolved from there.

Via Twitter:

All the suspensions were fairly weak. Ingram got just four games for his initial instigation and giant, loping punch toward Paul. Rondo received three games for spitting on Paul and landing punches. Paul received two games for punching Rondo.

It’s unlikely that anybody was going to be happy with the result of the discipline just because of the bad blood involved. However, the league made comment about the suspension afterward, with the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Kiki VanDeWeghe taking to television later on Sunday.

VanDeWeghe’s explanations don’t satisfy me, and they certainly wouldn’t if I were a Rockets fan. Guys going chest-to-chest and having tensions rise as one thing. Spitting at somebody is another. It’s a level of actionable disrespect that directly influenced and raised tensions during the incident.

Ingram looked childish for shoving James Harden, but his punch came after Rondo got Paul wound up by spitting on him. It’s hard for me to understand how Rondo didn’t get a matching sentence with Ingram at the very least.

For reference, Carmelo Anthony was suspended for 15 games in 2006 after he clocked a player on the New York Knicks during a fight as a member of the Denver Nuggets. Given that precedence, something approaching double digits for both Ingram and Rondo seems like it would have been more appropriate.

Juancho Hernangómez bats game-clinching block to beat Warriors (VIDEO)

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We all knew the Denver Nuggets were going to be exciting this season, but nobody expected them to come through with this kind of statement result this early.

On Sunday as the Nuggets took on the Golden State Warriors, a tight game in Colorado lead to a drive by Stephen Curry in the closing seconds that could have won the defending champions the game.

Instead, Juancho Hernangómez became a Denver legend.

Via Twitter:

It was a serious block by Hernangómez on Damian Jones.

Denver beat the Warriors, 100-98, moving the Nuggets to 3-0 on the year and giving Golden State its first loss of the season.

Kyle Lowry on DeMar DeRozan handshake routine: ‘He’s my best friend’ (VIDEO)

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Kyle Lowry was not happy with the Toronto Raptors when the team traded DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs this offseason for Kawhi Leonard.

Lowry and DeRozan are best friends, and their budding romance has been a sentimental point for fans in Toronto and abroad.

But life goes on, and the Raptors again are one of the teams expected to challenge for an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. That hasn’t kept Lowry from doing the same handshake routine he used to do with DeRozan before games this season.

The only difference? DeRozan isn’t there to help dap up Lowry.

Via Twitter:

For his part, Lowry told NBA TV after Toronto’s game on Saturday that he will continue to do the handshake routine because the DeRozan will always be his best friend.

Even thousands of miles apart you can’t keep these guys from showing love for each other.

NBA confirms Rajon Rondo spit at Chris Paul, hands out suspensions after fight

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With the NBA dissecting video from Saturday night’s game between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers like the Zapruder film, it was only a matter of time before we saw suspensions handed down for Chris Paul, Brandon Ingram, and Rajon Rondo.

On Sunday, the league announced its decision.

After reviewing tape, the NBA determined that Rondo did indeed spit on Paul. Ingram was seen as the initial instigator, and thus was served with a heavier sentence.

The finally tally was:

  • Four games for Ingram
  • Three games for Rondo
  • Two games for Paul

Here’s the relevant details per the NBA’s release.

Via NBA:

Ingram has been suspended for aggressively returning to and escalating the altercation and throwing a punch in the direction of Paul, confronting a game official in a hostile manner, and instigating the overall incident by shoving Rockets guard James Harden. Rondo has been suspended for instigating a physical altercation with, and spitting and throwing multiple punches at, Paul. Paul has been suspended for poking at and making contact with the face of Rondo, and throwing multiple punches at him.

We have been waiting on these suspensions largely to see how the NBA would discipline one of the first actual fights in some time. A maximum of four games seems a little light to me. Carmelo Anthony was suspended for 15 games in 2006 when he clocked Mardy Collins during a fight between the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets.

Rondo only getting three games despite having spit on an opponent is also pretty wild. That’s crazy disrespectful and I would not believe you if you tried to tell me that this bad blood will end here.

Both the Lakers and Rockets will miss some of their most important players as they start duking it out in the tough Western Conference.