Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What you missed while wondering if your office NCAA pool will pay out all the way down to 19th place so you can get your money back…

Thunder 115, Raptors 89: The Raptors play no defense and the Thunder are explosive on offense. What more do you need to know? It’s not even that Oklahoma City shot all that well, but they got the rebound on 39 percent of their missed shots and Toronto just does not create turnovers. At the end of the game Raptors fans were booing (no, they were not saying “boo-urns”).

Knicks 92, Sixers 88: When Mike D’Antoni was just playing veterans in order to fight for a playoff spot a couple months ago, the Knicks kept losing. Now, he is playing the kids and newcomers to see what they can do and New York has won three out of four. Just sayin’. Rookie Toney Douglas dropped 22, trade throw in Bill Walker added 15.

Great tweet from Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix: Have to wonder what this Sixers team would look like with Andre Miller. Heady PG exactly what they need.

Hawks 93, Bobcats 92 (OT): This is now another potential first round playoff matchup I am rooting to see. Fantastic athletes on both sides. The Hawks explosive offense vs. the Bobcats defense. And if you haven’t seen Joe Johnson’s game winner, you should.

Pacers 106, Pistons 102: I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’d bet this was the least-watched game on NBA League Pass this year. Danny Granger came back and had 29, because he’s good.

Cavaliers 92, Bulls 85: The Bulls in green St. Patrick’s Day unis, playing at the same time as the Celtics were playing (also in green) screwed me up all night long. I could swear Kevin Garnett had a good game for the Bulls.

Chicago didn’t shoot as well, didn’t get to the line as often as Cleveland, didn’t rebound as well as Cleveland, yet the Cavs let them hang around. In the first half Antawn Jamison didn’t score and LeBron James was 1 of 5. Throughout the game, the Cavs went with heavy doses of LeBron dribbling out the clock, little ball or player movement. It was maybe the worst game Cleveland has played in a while. And they got the win. Cavs fans, take it and move on.

Celtics 94, Rockets 87: Houston makes you work for everything, there are no easy wins against them. Boston needed that. They responded to the challenge and were the more physical team. They kept the pace down and just played great half-court defense, forcing Houston into a lot of contested jumpers. Basically, they played like the Celtics Boston fans were hoping to see all season.

Spurs 147, Warriors 116: San Antonio shot 64.6 percent, they scored 90 points in the paint. Credit the Spurs for executing, but Golden State’s defense is just abysmal. That’s actually too kind; Golden State’s defense is s—.

Suns 110, Jazz 100: If you read Dean Oliver’s “Basketball On Paper,” the bible of the NBA’s statistical revolution, the first thing he emphasizes is that for all the advanced stats you can come up with the bottom line is the team that shoots the ball better wins almost every game. The Suns shot 52.7 percent and Amare Stoudemire dropped 44. The Jazz shot 38.6 percent. Ballgame.

Trail Blazers 76, Wizards 74: Slow paced (20 fewer possessions than the Warriors game), bad shooting (both teams under 40%), low scoring. Not the most entertaining game ever, until the end. Brandon Roy has said he is looking for his inner killer, his inner Kobe Bryant, so he did a Kobe-like thing — after missing his previous 14 shots he took the last shot for the Blazers, 22-footer, and buried it.

Bucks 114, Kings 108 (2OT): Brandon Jennings had 35 points, hit 8 of 13 from three and did everything but stand up on the scorer’s table and yell “Who is the rookie of the year?” He outplayed Tyreke Evans (before Evans left with an injury).

Lakers 104, Timberwolves 96: When the Lakers cared and were focused, this game wasn’t even close. That was about 20 of the 48 minutes, but it was more than enough. Credit the Timberwolves for trying, but when Kobe Bryant has 13 assists the Lakers are tough to beat (he would have had more of Ron Artest and Lamar Odom didn’t miss as many as they did). Credit to Minnesota for not rolling over after getting blown out in the first quarter, they kept fighting. They were just overmatched when the Lakers paid attention.

Report: D-League All-Star, Magic call-up Keith Appling arrested with loaded AK-47 in strip club

Orlando Magic's Keith Appling (15) makes a shot in front of Philadelphia 76ers' Jerami Grant (39) and Nerlens Noel (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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If you’re on the fringe of the NBA, trying to get teams to take a chance on you, this is the opposite of what you should do.

Former Michigan State star Keith Appling, who last season was a D-League All-Star for the Erie Bay Hawks and got a couple of 10-day contracts with the Orlando Magic, has reportedly been arrested and is still in jail in Dearborn, Michigan, for allegedly taking a loaded assault rifle into an area strip club. (Dearborn police have not yet responded to NBC’s request for confirmation. Some Michigan outlets with sources in the area do have confirmation but few details.) This is how the story broke:

If true, Appling has much bigger problems then getting an invite to an NBA training camp next fall.

Byron Scott says he felt “a little” blindsided by Lakers’ firing

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott watches play against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Lakers fans were demanding it. Logic dictated it — even the questionable talent did not fully explain why Byron Scott could not get the Lakers to defend, they had one of the two worst defenses in the NBA each of his two seasons as coach.

Still, Byron Scott said he was blindsided by his firing by the Los Angeles Lakers, something he said on the Dan Patrick Show this morning (video above).

Scott makes a couple of valid points. First, the Lakers did take their time after the season (letting good coaches get snapped up elsewhere) while making this call, giving the impression Scott might be safe.

Second, the Lakers did not give Scott much talent to work with. I don’t care if you resurrected Red Auerbach and John Wooden and had them tag team as the coach, these Lakers were not making the playoffs. Scott was brought in to both shepherd the Kobe farewell years — he did that exactly as management wanted — and start to develop the young talent on the team, building a foundation for the future. That is where he fell short, both in terms of building a defensive foundation or forming a strong relationship with the young Lakers, most notably D'Angelo Russell.

Scott discussed his relationship with Russell, too.

It’s far too early to say how good a coach Luke Walton will be for the Lakers, but it’s safe to say he’s an upgrade over Scott. In that way, the Lakers made the right move.

Barack Obama calls Wizards about coaching job in White House correspondents’ dinner video

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From practically the moment they fired Randy Wittman (and probably before that), the Wizards appeared locked in on Scott Brooks as their next coach. They pursued him hard and convinced him to accept the job.

But did they miss out on a better known candidate in the process?

President Barack Obama sure sounded interested.

Dirk Nowitzki says he plans to re-sign with Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) celebrates as he leaves the court during the final minute of the second half in an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Monday, April 11, 2016, in Salt Lake City. The Mavericks won 101-92. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Dirk Nowitzki will opt out of the final year of a contract that would’ve paid him $8,692,184.

The big question: Why?

Does Nowitzki want a higher salary? More years? A lower salary that enables the Mavericks to upgrade their supporting cast?

He could command whichever of those he desires.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN, transcribing Nowitzki’s interview on 1310 The Ticket in Dallas:

Nowitzki reiterated Monday that he is committed to remaining with the Mavs for the rest of his career, saying that decision was essentially made when Dallas won the championship in 2011.

“That would have been the only scenario where I go somewhere at the end to kind of hang on and maybe try to win one,” Nowitzki said, referring to if he didn’t have a ring. “But ever since I won a championship here and we did that, I want to finish my career here. I always said that. The only scenario where I’ll try to go somewhere is if we’re rebuilding, if we really say, ‘This is the end of the line. We tried every which way and we can’t go any further and we’re starting basically with five rookies.’

“Obviously, that’s not what I want my last couple of years. But knowing Mark and Donnie, they always want this to be a winning franchise, so there’s no reason for me to go anywhere.”

“We had one more year on the contract, but I think this is the right thing to do,” he said. “We’re going to sit with Mark [Cuban] and Donnie [Nelson] obviously over the next few weeks and figure out how to improve this franchise again.

“Ever since after the championship, we’ve been basically a first-round exit. We’ve been a seven, eight seed. We’ve only won a few playoff games, and obviously the goal was to compete at the highest level in my last couple of years. So there is some moving to do, some thinking, some putting our heads together the next few weeks heading into free agency, heading into the draft. So this is just one move that hopefully starts a chain reaction for us to get better again, to compete really at a high level. We’ll see how it goes.”

Usually, I’d say this would at least open the door to the player leaving. But it’d be difficult for the Mavericks to pivot into rebuilding now. They don’t have their own first-round pick, and Justin Anderson is their only young player of consequence.

With Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea signed long term and Nowitzki intent on returning, it makes far more sense to try to win now. Dallas might fail, but it’ll almost certainly be the goal.

The Mavericks project to have about $20 million in cap space accounting for cap holds for Chandler Parsons ($19,969,950), Nowitzki ($12,500,0001), Deron Williams ($6,454,769) and Dwight Powell ($1,180,431). If those players sign elsewhere or get renounced, Dallas would clear more room.

Nowitzki could accept a lower salary than his cap hold, and his first-year salary would become his cap number once signed. Essentially, he could monitor free agency and slide his salary requirement depending on the quality of free agent the Mavericks could sign with the available money. Land a star, and maybe Nowitzki would take far less to accommodate him. Strike out, and Nowitzki might want a raise.

He has leverage, though it seems he’s set on using it harmoniously with management.

Still, what if Dallas flops majorly in free agency? Could Nowitzki leave? I expect the Mavericks to land productive veterans, and I doubt Nowitzki would leave anyway. But by opting out, he has the ability to walk.

The Mavericks have an opportunity to improve this offseason. Two years ago, they leveraged Nowitzki’s commitment to the franchise into a below-market deal that helped them sign Parsons. The goal should be once again involving Nowitzki in the process and having him help.

The better Dallas does in free agency, the more likely Nowitzki will be to sacrifice for the team.