Jazz All-Star point guard Mike Conley enjoyed a solid comeback game after missing nine contests with a sore right hamstring, writes Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune. In what amounted to a playoff tune-up game for Conley, an unrestricted free agent this summer, he scored 10 points in just 16 minutes during the first half of a 109-93 victory against the Thunder. Conley, 33, could be in line for one last big multiyear payday thanks to his stellar season in Utah.
“It was great to have him back,” Conley’s All-Star Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert said. “I feel like he was quick, he was making the right decisions. Obviously, he didn’t play the second half, but I thought in the first half, he really gave us a lift. That’s what we expect him to do. He’ll find his rhythm and hopefully get back to the level that he is comfortable playing [at]. If he plays the way he played tonight every night, I’m totally fine with that.”
There’s more out of the Northwest Division:
- Timberwolves team president Gersson Rosas is confident that he is building a long-term winner in Minnesota, writes Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “We’ve had what we’ve had the last two years for whatever reasons there are,” Rosas said. “Things we can control, things we can’t control, and our record is what it is and that’s who we are. We really feel confident about the core, the roster we have in place. … Even though it’s a small sample size, when our top guys are on the floor, we’re a winning team and that’s our belief.” The Timberwolves are currently 22-49, tied with the Cavaliers for the league’s fifth worst record. The team’s 2021 draft pick will be sent to the Warriors unless it moves into the top three during the draft lottery.
- Thunder rookie power forward Aleksej Pokusevski, the No. 17 pick in the 2020 draft, saw his season trajectory benefit from a G League assignment, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. “The first 10-15 [NBA] games I was just shooting the ball, wasn’t even reading the defense,” Pokusevski said. “The game slowed down after the G League for me. I started reading the game.”
- Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert has unlocked his second consecutive $250K bonus for having his minutes-to-rebounds ratio being less than 3.2, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Gobert, the likely Defensive Player of the Year, will make an additional $500K if he is named an All-Defensive First Teamer. Marks adds (Twitter link) that none of Gobert’s potential bonuses will impact the team’s projected luxury tax bill, since those incentives were deemed likely entering the season.