Halfway through his second season with the Jazz, Mike Conley is completely sold on the organization, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. After an awkward start to last season, the 33-year-old point guard has become comfortable in his role and is hoping for a long-term deal when he reaches free agency this summer.
“Utah’s got me,” Conley said. “I was talking about this to my wife recently. We love it here. I don’t think I can go anywhere else that plays the way we play. We’ll see this offseason, because when that time comes there will definitely be a lot of chatter. But, from where I sit right now, this team is so unique in the way we play. And everyone has bought into what we want to do on both ends of the floor.”
Everything seems to be going well for the Jazz, who hold the league’s best record at 25-6. All the pieces are fitting together and Conley is playing as well as ever, averaging 16.4 points and 5.6 assists per game while leading the league in NBA.com’s list of individual net rating.
Jones notes that there are plenty of reasons for the Jazz to let Conley go if the relationship hadn’t been so successful. Donovan Mitchell handles the ball frequently and could take over as point guard if needed. Conley makes $34.5MM this year, and a new contract will involve a significant financial commitment for a franchise that is already in luxury tax territory.
Even so, Jones suggests Utah’s front office is committed to holding onto Conley.
“What is gratifying is how Mike has come back and adjusted after the initial integration and injuries, and how he has worked his way through a really premature and unfair narrative that a player and a man like himself received,” said executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey. “Mike has taught me a lot about what life and sports teaches us.”
Conley’s time in Utah got off to a rough start after the Jazz traded for him in the summer of 2019. A pulled hamstring sidelined him for much of his first season with the team, and he wasn’t playing at his normal level when he was on the court. Things didn’t fully turn around until the restart in Orlando, but there were still whispers that Conley was past his prime and perhaps the trade was a mistake.
Conley hated feeling like he was disappointing Jazz fans, whom he describes as “very passionate.”
“So to start the way I did, not doing anything well, not being able to hit a shot, that wasn’t me,” he said. “And then when the injury came, I wasn’t able to show what I could do. For a while, it felt like anything I did was going to be bad. It was tough. I wasn’t used to negative criticism. I felt like I let the people down.”
That has changed this season, and Conley could be on the verge of an All-Star selection, which has eluded him throughout his career. Mitchell and center Rudy Gobert seem like sure things, and Conley makes no secret of his desire to join them when the reserves are announced later today.
“I think this year, honestly, I’m playing the best basketball of my entire career,” he said. “Being 33 years old, I’ve never had the opportunity to play in the game. I’ve had the door shut so many times. But it’s been so much fun being a part of a team like this that is so unique. We play so unselfishly, and we have a defensive mindset and a physical mentality.”