Kurt Helin

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) controls the ball against Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Associated Press

Don’t expect Memphis to trade Mike Conley at the deadline. Or ever.

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Memphis as an organization values continuity; they are not an organization that shakes things up willy-nilly.

Meaning it’s hard to imagine the Grizzlies trading their point guard Mike Conley at the trade deadline. Courtney Lee or Matt Barnes on the wing? That’s a possibility. But a core piece like Conley? Nope. Doesn’t matter that Conley can be a free agent this summer.

Still, the rumor is out there, and Matt Moore of CBSSports.com dealt with it well.

…there’s a natural push from folks to start talking about the Grizzlies needing to trade Conley prior to a forced rebuild, “so they don’t lose him and get nothing in return.”

This, at least according to every single person I’ve queried on the subject, is not the plan. Plans change and things shift very quickly in the NBA, but it’s at least not where Memphis intends to be….

“If you look back at the five years since the tide has turned for this franchise (since the 2011 playoff berth and the start of the “Grit-Grind” era),” (Grizzlies’ General Manager Chris) Wallace told CBS Sports this week, “we have re-signed every core player for the Memphis Grizzlies.”

Meaning, they intend to re-sign Mike Conley next summer. The Knicks among a number of other teams will make a run at Conley, but Moore reminds us that Conley spent last summer trying to recruit Marc Gasol to get him to stay in Memphis — it would be pretty cold to turn and bolt.

Conley is going to get max offers (which for him start at $18.9 million next season); the money isn’t the question. He may be tempted to look for potentially greener pastures. But in the end, Wallace is right that the Grizzlies don’t lose their own free agents if they want to keep them.

Danny Crawford, Joey Crawford named best referees in anonymous player poll

Toronto Raptors v Charlotte Hornets

There are 30 fan bases in the NBA convinced that Joey Crawford has it in for them — he hates their team and makes calls to spite them.

NBA players don’t see it that way — they think he’s one of the best referees in the game.

The Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner interviewed nearly 40 NBA players, coaches, and assistant coaches to compile a list of the best and worst referees. The top three best?

1. Danny Crawford
2. Joey Crawford (not related)
3. Monty McCutchen

Here’s what players had to say, including about Joey Crawford who his walking away from the game after this season.

“Danny is good because he’ll talk to you,” another player said. “He doesn’t take it personal if you question him, as long as you’re not tripping or your tone is not all messed up. If you’re asking a question, even if you’re questioning his call, he doesn’t take it like it’s an affront to his manhood. He might tell you some stuff like, ‘You’re wrong.’ But he’ll treat you like a man, like a human being.”

“Once upon a time, you couldn’t talk to Joey,” an NBA head coach said. “He’s cleaned that up — big time. He runs it when he’s on the floor now. For me, that’s big. I don’t care if it’s at home or on the road, he’s not going to get intimidated by the crowd. To me, that’s big with officials. You have guys that are homers, where the home crowd can sway them. But not Joey.”

The three worst officials in the poll?

1. Scott Foster
2. Lauren Holtkamp
3. Marc Davis

Comments on those three:

“You can’t talk to him. He’s never wrong,” one player complained about Foster. “I like refs where they say, ‘You know what, I made a mistake. I saw it at halftime. You were right.’ But Scott Foster thinks he never makes a mistake. The players see the stats of how he is on the road. He always helps the road team out. He loves to stick it to teams.”

“Take the female part aside, she’s just new,” a player said. “But with her, I thought she took it a little bit personal, thinking players talk to her the wrong way. When you’re young, like an NBA player or a ref, you’ve got to come in seeking knowledge. You can’t come in blowing the whistle. She came in like, ‘I’m a female and you’re not going to talk a certain way to me.’ No one called her a bad name. No one disrespected her. It’s her terrible calls.”

The NBA does have a referee evaluation and training program — these officials are scrutinized and told what they did right and wrong. But just like at your job, some people deal with criticism well and adjust, others not so much.

But if you notice it’s not simply the quality of calls the players care about, it’s do they feel heard — can they talk to you about a bad call and not get run for it. Part of that is tone and how players approach it — whine like Blake Griffin and referees are more likely to tune you out — but some officials don’t even want that. They want the control, and that’s bad for the game.

Hoiberg says Bulls likely to stand pat at trade deadline

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A few weeks back, it was expected that the Chicago Bulls were going to be sellers at the trade deadline. They had a deep frontcourt with the emergence of Bobby Portis alongside Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Nikola Mirotic.

But now Noah is gone for the season with shoulder surgery while Mirotic is out until after the All-Star break following an appendectomy. With that, the Bulls need all that depth they have.

So don’t expect the Bulls to be making moves at the trade deadline next month, according to coach Fred Hoiberg, via KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

The Bulls see the impending return of Mike Dunleavy — who has gone to the Santa Cruz D-League team to work out at full speed — as like an addition via trade. His shooting helps open the floor for the drives of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, plus he’s a good passer and high IQ player.

That’s not going to be enough to knock off the Cavaliers (or maybe even the Raptors), but the Bulls aren’t going to mortgage the future for a slightly better shot at this season. Nor should they.

Rumor: Lakers believe Russell Westbrook coming in 2017

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) and guard Russell Westbrook, right, shout after a 3-point basket by Durant in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Associated Press

Go to your local grocery store and buy a box of Kosher salt (the good stuff) for this one. You’re going to need it.

Lakers management does believe that in the next couple summers they are going to land a major free agent that is going to quickly change the 9-40 team’s fortunes. Someone who can lead a young core with D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance to contender status again.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith (hence the need for all the salt) was on ESPN 710s Mason and Ireland show Friday (as transcribed by the LA Examiner) and stuck by his Kevin Durant to the Lakers this summer rumor and said the reason is Russell Westbrook (who is a free agent in 2017).

“Keep in mind this, one of the biggest reasons I’m told, that Kevin Durant may have the Lakers at the top of his list, is because the Lakers have been led to believe, by whom specifically I do not know, but the Lakers have been led to believe that it is a very good chance that the following year Russell Westbrook is coming….

“It’s a big possibility,” Smith said. “It’s a big possibility.”

Again, sprinkle liberally with salt.

What this rumor has going for it are twofold: There are people with ties to Durant who would like to push him to a larger market like L.A. or New York; also there is a sense among some observers that Westbrook is the guy more drawn to the bright lights of a big city and might be more likely to leave Oklahoma City than Durant. If Westbrook told Durant he was leaving (far from a given) then Durant would have to consider a move, too.

The problems with this rumor… well, there’s too many to list them all here. At the top: Durant is not a guy swayed by the bright lights, he’s in his prime at age 27, he wants to win now, and going to the Lakers from OKC — with Westbrook and Serge Ibaka — would be a step back. The Lakers do not have a third player as good as Ibaka, and while there is potential with their depth, there is still development needed. Plus, who will be the Lakers’ coach next season? What is their team identity? The Thunder are starting to figure that out under Billy Donovan of late; the Lakers are much farther down the curve.

And the Thunder can offer both Durant and Westbrook more money.

My guess? Durant signs a two-year deal with the Thunder this summer with an opt-out after one — he gets a big payday and sets himself up for a bigger one in 2017 (when the salary cap is projected to jump to $108 million, up from $90 million next season and $67 million this season). At that point, Durant and Westbrook may make choices about what’s next. But right now winning a title matters and they are far closer to that in Oklahoma City than L.A. or New York.

DeMarcus Cousins leaves game with sprained ankle, X-rays negative

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The Sacramento Kings are 19-20 in games DeMarcus Cousins plays (including a couple he had to leave early due to injury). They are 1-7 when he is out. Put more bluntly, the Kings are a playoff team when Cousins plays, they are a mess without him.

Which is why when Cousins’ left the eventual loss to Memphis late in the fourth quarter, Kings fans held their breath. Good news eventually followed — X-rays were negative. Cousins is now officially listed as day-to-day.

The Kings are home against the Bucks Monday and the Bulls Wednesday.

The injury happened when Memphis’ Marc Gasol dove for a loose ball and rolled up on Cousin’s leg. After the game, Kings’ coach Karl said the injury cut short the Kings’ comeback bid in an eventual 121-117 loss.

Cousins is an All-Star averaging 27 points and 11.3 rebounds a game for the Kings.