Kurt Helin

Bradley Beal, John Wall

Snowed-out Jazz/Wizards game rescheduled for Feb. 18

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We haven’t seen a back-to-back-to-back in the NBA since the lockout season, when the league tried to cram 66 games in after Christmas.

The Washington Wizards have one now.

The Utah at Washington game originally scheduled for Jan. 23, which was snowed out because of a major storm hitting the Eastern seaboard, has been rescheduled for Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. Eastern at Verizon Center.

That makes the Wizards’ schedule:

Feb. 18: vs. Utah
Feb. 19: vs. Detroit
Feb. 20: at Miami

The Jazz have a back-to-back as well, facing Boston on the 19th.

Mike Conley does not crush Knicks free agent dreams, says everything on table

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When you talk about the most underrated players in the NBA, especially with the casual fan, Mike Conley is at the top of the list. The Grizzlies’ point guard has played at an All-Star level for a few seasons now but hasn’t gotten the recognition, in part because it’s Memphis and in part because the West is stacked with quality point guards.

The New York Knicks desperately need an upgrade at the point.

Which has led to the latest fantasy of seemingly every Knick fan (and talking head in the city) — the free agent Conley coming to New York this summer. When asked about it Friday before the Grizzlies and Knicks squared off, Conley didn’t kill the rumors (which in New York is like throwing gasoline on them). Here are his quotes, via Ian Begley of ESPN.

“I think everything will be on the table when that time comes,” Conley said Friday morning after the Grizzlies’ shootaround at Madison Square Garden. “I haven’t committed to anything…

“They’ve got talent, obviously,” he said. “I think [Kristaps] Porzingis surprised a lot of people. He’s going to be very, very good in this league. He already is pretty good. But he’s going to grow each year, and they already have one of the best small forward in Melo [Carmelo Anthony]. They’ve got a young team, so they’ve got a lot of room to improve.”

The smart money is on Conley staying in Memphis, the only NBA team he has ever played for. Conley was very active last summer in recruiting Marc Gasol to remain in Memphis, and has said it would be very difficult to leave him. Plus the Grizzlies can offer more money — one more guaranteed year plus larger raises.

The Knicks will need to lose some salary before July 1 just to offer Conley a max, which likely starts around $24 million (depends on the final salary cap number). What the Knicks can offer is a larger stage for his brand and the chance to bring that brand out of the shade of Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Conley — who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.1 assists per game, is shooting 35 percent from three, is good on the pick-and-roll, plus is one of the best defensive point guards in the game — will have plenty of other suitors as well. He’s one of the best players on the free agent market this summer.

Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Kobe Bryant continues turning back clock

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant reacts after sinking a 3-point shot late in the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Lakers won 99-96. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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Here’s what you need to know from a four-game slate Thursday night around the Association: 

1) Anthony Davis was a beast, but too much vintage Kobe Bryant got Lakers win in New Orleans. The Lakers have won two in a row behind turn-back-the-clock performances from Kobe, and nobody is happier about that than the Sixers. Well, maybe Byron Scott.

In his last three games, Bryant is averaging 29.3 points and shooting 50 percent from three. He was +16 for the game on Thursday, putting up 27 points on 24 shots in New Orleans. Kobe saved his best for last, with 12 points in the fourth quarter —including the dagger three with just less than a minute to go — to keep the Lakers afloat while the Pelicans made a late run that seemed like it could change the outcome. Anthony Davis was a beast all game and had 39 points, while once again Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson made everyone wonder why they are not starting, putting up 19 and 17 points respectively and both closing the game. The Lakers got 18 points from Jordan Clarkson, and D'Angelo Russell still got almost 30 minutes off the bench (he needs the run).

2) Raptors backcourt of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan too much for Portland. The Trail Blazers backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been surprisingly good this season and are the reason the Trail Blazers are in the hunt for a playoff spot. But they are not as good as the Raptors’ Lowry and DeRozan, who combined for 59 points and hit 8-of-11 threes to lead Toronto to another win. The two men got whatever shot they wanted most of the night, and when Portland went on a run to get within three in the fourth it was Lowry in particular that took over and got the lead back up to double-digits. If you want some in-depth Raptors talk — including who they might go after at the trade deadline — check out the latest PBT Podcast where Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun and I break it all down.

3) Dunk of the night goes to… Ryan Anderson? Yup. He put Kobe in a poster. Ryan Anderson is as good a stretch four as you’re going to find in the league (when healthy), and what makes him special is he can do more than just stand in the corner and shoot threes. The man has skills. And, he can throw down the occasional dunk. Even if Kobe Bryant is in the way.

Damian Lillard rejects Kyle Lowry on the drive (VIDEO)

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See, Damian Lillard does play defense sometimes.

Most of the night Kyle Lowry got what he wanted, finishing with 30 points on 19 shots, leading Toronto to a win on the road in Portland. But on this one drive, Lillard tracked him down and sent Lowry’s shot flying.

DeMar DeRozan had 29 in the Raptors win.

Adam Silver on hack-a-player: “That’s something… we need to address quickly”

Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan shoots a free throw after being fouled intentionally against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 102-87. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
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Last season, there were 164 hack-a-player free throws taken in the NBA season. While the strategy drew attention in the playoffs when the Clippers and Rockets took turns hacking DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver blew off the idea of rule changes because only a couple of players were involved in nearly every case.

This season the league is nearing 300 hack-a-player free throws and likely passes that number before the All-Star Game. It’s not just a couple of players or a couple of games involved anymore.

That seems to be sparking some league action. Slowly. Eventually. Silver talked about the change in his mind on the A to Z Podcast from Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgett of the USA Today, and they wrote about the highlights.

“I’m increasingly of the view that we will be looking to make some sort of change in that rule this summer….

“Even for those who had not wanted to make the change, we’re being forced to that position just based on these sophisticated coaches understandably using every tactic available to them,” Silver said. “It’s just not the way we want to see the game played….

“Clearly that’s not a natural basketball move,” he said. “That’s something that, in my view, we need to address quickly because ultimately there’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our players. Again, I think that’s an accident waiting to happen with guys jumping on each other’s shoulders just trying to attract officials’ attention to call a foul.”

That gets to the heart of it for me. You can say “just make your free throws” but I would counter “just play basketball” — and intentionally fouling a guy 50 feet from the play is not basketball. Free throws exist as a chance for a player fouled trying to score to get his points, or as a punishment for teams that foul too much, it is not a basketball litmus test.

Still, don’t expect an outright ban.

Another person familiar with the process said he doesn’t think there is enough support to ban Hack-A-Player outright. He said initial change will be incremental, eliminating loopholes to the rule such as one player jumping on a player’s back during a free throw attempt.

There are easy fixes here, at least in my mind. I would say the fouled team should have the choice of free throws or the ball out-of-bounds — if you foul J.J. Redick off the ball the Clippers should be able to punish the other team with points, but if they foul DeAndre Jordan they just inbound the ball and the game goes on — like a real basketball game.

Other options suggested were to allow teams a limited number of off-the-ball fouls (which is a logical inconsistency to me, how is it allowed then not allowed?) or, after a certain number of intentional fouls, the aggrieved player gets one more free throw (so, slow the game down even more).

One way or another, it sounds like a rule change is finally coming. However incrementally.