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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.

Joel Embiid misses out on about $29 million by making just All-NBA second team

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ injury could cost him in free agency.

It might have already cost Joel Embiid.

The 76ers center made just the All-NBA second team, landing behind the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. Davis surged after Cousins went down, earning overall credit from All-NBA voters, who were also increasingly likely to view him as a center rather than just a forward.

As a result, Davis made the All-NBA first team at center – costing Embiid about $29 million over the next five years.

Embiid’s contract extension, which kicks in next season, calls for his starting salary to be 25% of the salary cap (the typical max for a player with his experience level). If he made the All-NBA first team, his starting salary would have been 30% of the salary cap .

Though the exact cap won’t be determined until July, here’s what Embiid is projected to earn on his standard max and what he could’ve earned on the super max (with 8% raises in both cases):

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Obviously Embiid will still earn a lot of money, and he and Philadelphia have a bright future.

But it’s hard not to think, if Cousins didn’t get hurt, Embiid would be even richer.

At least the 76ers have more cap space to pursue their big goals.

Rockets to wear patches to honor Santa Fe shooting victims

Houston Rockets
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HOUSTON (AP)–  The Houston Rockets will wear patches on their jerseys to honor the victims of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

The patches will read: “Santa Fe HS.” It’s one of several tributes the team plans following Friday’s shooting. Eight students and two teachers died at the school, located 30 miles from downtown Houston.

The school’s high school choir will perform the national anthem. There will be a moment of silence and a video tribute before tipoff.

Santa Fe’s senior class and administrators have been invited to attend the game as guests of owner Tilman Fertitta. The Rockets also will honor first responders on the court.

Proceeds from Thursday night’s charity raffle will go to the Santa Fe Strong Memorial Fund.

Rockets went all-in for Game 4. How much do they have left in tank for Game 5?

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Despite trailing 2-1 as the top seed in the Western Conference finals in a season his star deemed “the year,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni claimed all the pressure was on Warriors in Game 4.

Of course, nobody believed D’Antoni.

D’Antoni didn’t even believe himself.

He played P.J. Tucker 44 minutes, James Harden 43 minutes, Chris Paul 42 minutes and Trevor Ariza 41 minutes in Houston’s win. That was the first time four teammates played 40 minutes in regulation of a non-elimination playoff game in a half decade.*

*The Pacers gave 40 minutes to Paul George, George Hill, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson in Game 6 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. After that win, Indiana lost to the Heat in Game 7. Since, only the Warriors – who used Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green in Game 7 of the 2016 Western Conference finals against the Thunder – have played just seven players in a playoff game.

D’Antoni’s rotation revealed his desperation to win Game 4. And who could blame him? A 3-1 deficit to this mighty Golden State squad would have been nearly insurmountable.

Not only did D’Antoni lean heavily on his top players, he didn’t even spread around the remaining minutes. Just seven Rockets played in Game 4 – Tucker, Harden, Paul, Ariza, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela and Gerald Green.

How fatigued will those players be in Game 5 tonight?

In the last 20 years, teams have used just seven players in a playoff game 28 times. In their following game, those teams went 10-15. (Two were eliminated.)

Here are the full results:

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Teams have used so few players just twice in the previous decade, but the super-shortened rotation was once a D’Antoni specialty. The practice only waned while he was mostly missing the playoffs with the Knicks and Lakers. In fact, 14 of the last 18 times a team used just seven players in a playoff game, D’Antoni did it.

The most recent previous example came in Game 5 of last year’s Rockets-Spurs second-round series. Houston lost by 39 and got eliminated in the next game – which became known for Harden running out of gas.

Will the result be different this time?

The Warriors have their own physical-readiness issues. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala are banged up. Golden State coach Steve Kerr should probably tighten his rotation, especially removing Nick Young. It’s not as if the Warriors gave up on Game 4, either. Draymond Green played 45 minutes, Kevin Durant 43, Klay Thompson 39 and Curry 39.

These conference finals are shaping up to be a great battle. It might be one of attrition.

Carmelo Anthony responds four times to Instagram post calling Kyle Korver better: ‘FOH’

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Carmelo Anthony was the No. 3 pick in the 2003 NBA draft. He had just led Syracuse to the national title as a freshman, and some fans and media advocating taking him No. 1 overall ahead of LeBron James (and Darko Milicic).

Korver was the No. 51 pick in the same draft. He looked like this:

Fifteen years later, Anthony and Korver are still in the league. Korver is helping the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, and Anthony and the Thunder already got eliminated. That sparked an Instagram post that clearly irked Anthony:

Anthony has had a better career than Korver. But who’s better right now? It depends on the terms of the debate.

Anthony is still a more-skilled all-around offensive player. (Neither gains credit for their defense.) Anthony can create in ways Korver just can’t.

But any team running its offense through Anthony now is asking for a bad time. Even if that’s that the best style for maximizing him individually, he’s no longer good enough to justify having the ball that much.

Korver is a far superior complementary player. He’s an elite 3-point shooter who moves well off the ball. Anthony struggles in that role.

In a hypothetical game between Anthony plus four average players and Korver plus four average players, I’d lean toward Anthony’s squad. But an actual NBA team capable of winning needs players better than both, and at that point, I’d rather have Korver.