Mike Conley

Jazz Rumors: Conley, Markkanen, Vanderbilt, Beasley, Collins, More

The severity of Mike Conley‘s knee injury could have an impact on which direction the Jazz go in their various trade talks, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who notes that a significant drop-off in Utah’s play with Conley unavailable may make the team more inclined to sell — especially if the veteran point guard ends up sidelined for multiple weeks, as was originally rumored.

For the time being, Fischer says, the Jazz appear intent on keeping forward Lauri Markkanen, who is enjoying a breakout season, and guard Jordan Clarkson, who is believed to be a better candidate for an extension than a trade. The club has also established a “high” asking price for forward Jarred Vanderbilt, Fischer adds.

That would leave Conley, swingman Malik Beasley, and center Kelly Olynyk as the most likely veteran trade candidates in Utah, according to Fischer, though he acknowledges that Olynyk is a favorite of Jazz CEO Danny Ainge.

Here’s more on the Jazz from Fischer:

  • League sources tell Yahoo Sports that Utah’s interest in Hawks big man John Collins is legitimate. However, Atlanta didn’t gain any traction after inquiring about a Markkanen/Collins swap, and it seems unlikely that Collins will end up with the Jazz, Fischer writes.
  • While Conley’s $22.68MM cap hit would be the best straight-up match for Collins’ $23.5MM figure, Fischer doesn’t expect the Hawks to have much interest in Conley, given that they already have two star point guards in Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. Beasley would be a more logical candidate to be included in any Jazz deal for Collins, per Fischer.
  • Sources tell Fischer that the Jazz have been looking to move Rudy Gay, who is averaging career worsts so far this season in points per game (4.5), minutes per game (15.8), and field goal percentage (36.2%), among many other categories. Gay is earning $6.18MM in 2022/23 and is considered highly likely to pick up his $6.48MM player option for ’23/24, so he’ll have negative trade value.

Injury Notes: LeBron, Barnes, Siakam, Beal, Conley

Lakers star LeBron James will miss a fifth consecutive game due to his left groin strain, having been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest vs. the Suns, according to the team (Twitter link via Dave McMenamin of ESPN).

James’ injury initially looked like it might be a death knell for the struggling Lakers, but the club has gone 3-1 without him, perhaps affording him a little extra time to recover. Still, it would certainly qualify as an upset if L.A. is able to pick up a victory tonight in Phoenix.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Raptors forward Scottie Barnes sat out practice on Tuesday and is considered day-to-day due to a left knee sprain, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter links). Head coach Nick Nurse told reporters he doesn’t think the injury is “terribly bad,” but Lewenberg says it sounds like the reigning Rookie of the Year will miss a little time.
  • Another injured Raptors forward, Pascal Siakam, will ramp up his work in practice this week and hopes to be cleared for contact this weekend, tweets Lewenberg. Barring setbacks, there’s optimism that Siakam will be back in action sometime next week.
  • Wizards star Bradley Beal, who took a knee to his quad on Sunday, didn’t practice on Tuesday and is questionable for Wednesday’s game in Miami, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said today (Twitter link via Josh Robbins of The Athletic).
  • Jazz guard Mike Conley said on Monday night that “everything came out clean” on his left leg injury, per Mark Medina of NBA.com (Twitter link). Presumably, that means further testing didn’t reveal any significant damage beyond the initially reported knee strain, but Conley is still expected to miss some time. The veteran said on Monday that he has done some individual strength work, but no on-court activities yet.

Mike Conley Sidelined By Left Knee Strain

5:56pm: Conley could return sooner than two weeks, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. His injury will be reevaluated when the Jazz return to Salt Lake City on Tuesday after the team faces the Clippers on Monday.

4:39pm: Veteran Jazz point guard Mike Conley will miss at least two weeks due to a left knee strain, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

The franchise is actually relieved the injury isn’t worse. Conley, who underwent an MRI on Sunday, avoided ligament damage during the non-contact injury that occurred after he played nine minutes against Portland on Saturday. Conley said he felt his leg lock up as he tried to get around a screen.

Conley is averaging 10.2 points and 7.9 assists per game for the surprising Jazz this season. He’s battled numerous injuries in recent seasons, though he was able to start 72 regular season games for Utah in 2021/22. During the six previous seasons, four with Memphis and two with Utah, Conley appeared in 70 or more games just once.

Collin Sexton figures to take Conley’s starting spot for the time being, though Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Malik Beasley and even Talen Horton-Tucker could see more backcourt time.

Jazz Notes: Conley Injury, Horton-Tucker, Sexton

The Jazz may have to survive for a while without starting point guard Mike Conley, who left Saturday’s game with a knee injury, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. The team is awaiting the results of an MRI to determine the full extent of the damage.

Conley explained to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link) that the injury was non-contact and happened as he tried to get around a screen. Conley said he felt his leg lock up and he did a mental check to determine what was causing the pain. On-court ligament tests were encouraging, Walden adds.

Conley was limping in the locker room after the game, but he told staff members that the media saw him immediately after he was icing the knee. The limp was mostly gone by the time he got on the team plane, according to Larsen.

There’s more on the Jazz:

  • Talen Horton-Tucker finished Saturday’s game at point guard, which Larsen sees as an indication of what coach Will Hardy would prefer to do with his lineup if Conley has an extended absence. Larsen notes that Horton-Tucker has improved his decision-making over the past month, while Collin Sexton can be undisciplined when running the offense. Sexton started the last time that Conley was unavailable and probably expects to fill that role again, so Larsen suggests that he might move into the starting lineup to preserve the team’s “good vibes.”
  • Earlier this week, Conley talked to Mark Medina of NBA.com and admitted that he expected to be traded after Utah moved Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell during the offseason. “Even all the way up to training camp, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Conley said. “I didn’t know who was going to be here, and if I was going to be here or not. Once I knew I was going to be here at least to start the season, I focused on what I needed to focus on and get out there and play. Whatever happens, happens. But while I’m here, I’ll be as good as I can be and help this team as much as I can.”
  • With the best record in the Western Conference at 12-6, the Jazz are no longer in position to consider tanking for a high draft pick, but they may also not be good enough to win a playoff series, per Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Utah has enough assets to trade for a star player, but Todd notes that Conley’s contract would almost have to be a part of any major deal and his contributions to team chemistry would be hard to replace.

Northwest Notes: Hart, Wolves, KCP, Markkanen, Conley

The Trail Blazers faced some criticism last winter for not receiving more in return when they traded CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. to New Orleans, but they certainly haven’t been disappointed by what they’ve gotten from Josh Hart, one of the key pieces in that deal.

A full-time starter this season for the 7-3 Blazers, Hart is attempting just 6.8 shots per 36 minutes in the early part of this season, by far a career low. But he’s filling up the box score by averaging 8.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, all of which are career bests, and is earning praise from his teammates, as Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian details.

“His last name is the perfect last name for him,” Damian Lillard said. “He rebounds like he is seven feet, he’s always in the passing lanes, he’s physical, playing hard, passionate, cares about winning. He doesn’t care about shots.”

While Hart admits that he wouldn’t mind a greater role on offense, he said he’s OK with taking a back seat to Lillard, Jerami Grant, and other teammates if that’s what’s best for the club.

“When you want to win, you’ve got to sacrifice,” Hart said, per Fentress. “I would love to be out there shooting 10, 12, 13 shots per game, and doing stuff like that. But at the end of the day, if you want to win, guys are going to have to sacrifice. Guys have to play different roles to help the team.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • It’s officially time to start worrying about the Timberwolves, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. The Wolves, who lost on Wednesday to a Suns squad missing Chris Paul and Cameron Johnson, have shown “no energy, no drive, and no heart” this season, Krawczynski writes, pointing out that the team has trailed by at least 18 points in six of its seven losses. “It’s just the sign of a team that’s lacking a little bit of confidence and purpose right now,” head coach Chris Finch said.
  • Acquired in an offseason trade, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been an ideal fit as a three-and-D piece for the Nuggets, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports, who says head coach Michael Malone has given Caldwell-Pope the freedom to deviate from the team’s defensive game plan when he sees fit.
  • Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, who is thriving in his new home in Utah, sat down with Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link) to discuss his trade from Cleveland, his goal of making an All-Star team, and why things didn’t work out with the Bulls, among other topics.
  • The presence of veteran point guard Mike Conley has been one important reason why so many of the Jazz‘s newly acquired players are fitting in seamlessly this season, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “I’ve played with some good point guards, but nothing like Mike,” Markkanen said on Wednesday. “He’s a really smart player and knows not just when to pass ball, but he delivers on target.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Clippers, Conley, CP3, Suns

Even though they lost their first five games of the season, the Lakers were playing fairly solid defense during that slump, but their defensive numbers have dropped off substantially during their recent three-game losing streak. Head coach Darvin Ham is convinced that those struggles won’t last, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I would say this, man. And write it, quote it, however,” Ham told reporters on Monday. “This may be happening now at the outset of what we’re trying to force to be a culture change in terms of getting us back to being highly competitive on a highly consistent basis, but it’s not going to always be like this.

“We’re going to turn the corner. I didn’t come here to lose. They didn’t bring me here to lose.”

As McMenamin writes, Ham believes that significant roster turnover from last season to this season is a factor in the Lakers’ 2-8 start, as are injury issues — three starters, LeBron James, Patrick Beverley, and Lonnie Walker, sat out Monday’s loss to Utah.

“There is a process involved where we have to go through tough times,” Ham said. “Like, I want to bottle this up. I want to embrace it. I want to have it and store it so when things are turned around and we get too comfortable and we start complaining about some problems that are not even necessarily problems — problems that winning teams go through — I want to be able to reflect on these times.”

Anthony Davis told reporters on Monday that a 2-8 start is “a hard pill to swallow,” but noted that there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.

“I think New Orleans was 1-12 or something last year, come back and go on a run,” Davis said. “We’ve got to put it together. Offense has found its rhythm. It seems like we’ve lost all our defensive intensity. And that’s what’s killing us.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Jazz point guard Mike Conley believed at one point during the offseason that he was headed to Los Angeles, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. As Jones reports, Conley received a message from someone he trusted saying that he could be traded to the Clippers, but the team ultimately signed John Wall instead to fortify the point guard spot.
  • Already missing one starter, the Suns lost another in Monday’s game, as point guard Chris Paul exited in the second quarter due to right heel soreness and didn’t return. However, Paul doesn’t believe the injury will be a long-term concern, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Asked if not returning to Monday’s game was mostly about he and the team taking a cautious approach to the injury, Paul replied, “Yeah.”
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams said on Monday that the team may take a committee approach to replacing Cameron Johnson‘s minutes at power forward, Bontemps writes. Torrey Craig has gotten the first chance to take Johnson’s spot in the starting five, but Damion Lee, Dario Saric, and Jock Landale are also candidates for an eventual promotion, according to Williams.

Jazz Notes: Sexton, Conley, NAW, Bolmaro, Strong Start

Jazz point guard Mike Conley has taken new teammate Collin Sexton under his wing and is helping him see the game in a new way, according to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. With 16-year veteran Conley held out of the second game of a back-to-back set, Sexton received his first start of the 2022/23 season in Saturday’s win over Memphis, recording 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and four assists in nearly 32 minutes.

We’ll walk through, and he’ll be like, ‘Alright, what are you doing in this situation?’ And I’ll let him know, and then he’ll be like, ‘Well, in this situation, I think you should do this. Just try it,’” Sexton explained. “During the game, he’ll be like, ‘OK, you got to the basket — now let’s see if you can pitch [the ball] behind two or three times.’ And I’ll do it. And then he’s like, ‘Alright, now the next time, try to see if you can get all the way there [to the rim].’ It’s opening my mind to multiple ways of playing, and also multiple ways of seeing the game, too. I know he sees it from a different angle than I do.”

As Walden writes, the Jazz have been cautious not to overextend Sexton after he only played 11 games last season with a torn meniscus, which required surgery. He’s technically not on a minutes restriction, but that’s partly why he’s only averaging 19.0 MPG.

Sexton is eager to prove his worth after inking a four-year, $71MM deal as part of the Donovan Mitchell sign-and-trade with Cleveland, but he recognizes he’ll have more opportunities as the season goes on, per Walden.

Just giving [it all in] the time that I’m out there and just making an impact. And I might play four-minute spurts, so in those four minutes, giving it all I can, whether it’s pressuring the ball or pushing the ball and changing the pace of the game, whether it’s on the defensive side or offensive side,” Sexton said. “Just trying to use the little time that I’m given just to make sure that they know I’m out there, you know what I mean? Because I know once the season continues to go, more minutes, more time [will come].

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • Little-used guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker got an opportunity for extended run with Conley sidelined against the Grizzlies, and he showed that he can be a positive player when given the opportunity, writes Sarah Todd of The Desert News. Alexander-Walker played solid defense against Desmond Bane and Hardy was pleased with his effort, as Todd relays. “He came in with such a fire,” head coach Will Hardy said of Alexander-Walker. “He really got into the ball with Desmond Bane and I think he got two steals on the ball, just taking the dribble. He has really good instincts and really long arms and he did a good job of just trying to speed up their ball handlers, which I thought was great…It’s a difficult situation. He hasn’t played that much and he got thrown into a big game with Mike out, and I thought he handled himself great.”
  • Second-year guard Leandro Bolmaro, who recently had his third-year option declined by Utah, has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and is out for Monday’s game against Memphis, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. Rudy Gay and Simone Fontecchio are still in the protocols. Rookie center Walker Kessler (non-COVID illness) has also been ruled out for the contest, according to Jones (Twitter link).
  • How have the Jazz gotten off to a 5-2 start? Tony Jones tackles that topic for The Athletic, concluding that the team’s depth, offensive pressure, floor spacing, and key adjustments from head coach Will Hardy have been instrumental to the surprising seven-game stretch.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Possible Trade Partners, Shooting

Count Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer among the NBA analysts who believe the Lakers should be feeling some urgency to find a trade involving Russell Westbrook sooner rather than later. O’Connor opens his latest article by dubbing the former MVP a “washed-up bricklayer,” contending that the Lakers need to trade him immediately to have any chance of salvaging their season.

[RELATED: Woj: Don’t expect any Lakers trades before Thanksgiving]

While the much-discussed Pacers package of Myles Turner and Buddy Hield could certainly be one the Lakers revisit if and when they reengage in trade talks, O’Connor points to the Jazz a potential trade partner to watch.

League sources tell The Ringer that before Bojan Bogdanovic was traded to Detroit, the Lakers offered Westbrook, a future first-round pick, and second-rounders to Utah in exchange for Bogdanovic and others. O’Connor adds that sources expect the two teams to reopen their trade discussions at some point, since the Jazz still have veterans who could help the Lakers, such as Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, and/or Rudy Gay.

As O’Connor notes, the Hornets were viewed back in the spring as a possible trade partner for the Lakers and Westbrook, but that was when Charlotte was preparing to make a lucrative offer to Miles Bridges and was motivated to move off some multiyear salary. With Bridges’ NBA future up in the air due to domestic violence allegations, dumping long-term salary may no longer be a priority for the Hornets.

Here’s more on the Lakers and Westbrook:

  • The Lakers’ offense lost its rhythm late in Sunday’s loss to Portland when Westbrook checked back into the game, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report and Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who both argue that the team needs to seriously consider taking the point guard out of its closing lineup going forward.
  • Westbrook was pulled for the final few possessions on Sunday, shortly after he took an ill-advised jumper early in the shot clock with the Lakers up by a point and just under 30 seconds left in the game. After the game, head coach Darvin Ham said he isn’t worried about how Westbrook will respond to being benched for the game’s final 12 seconds. “We don’t have time for feelings or people being in their feelings. Like, we’re trying to turn this thing around,” Ham said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “For one person to be in their feelings about when and where and how they should be in the game, I don’t have any time for that.”
  • Anthony Davis was “visibly frustrated” after Sunday’s loss, according to McMenamin. “There’s no way we’re supposed to lose this game,” Davis said. “That’s where my frustration comes from.”
  • The Lakers’ three-point shooting remained an issue on Sunday, as Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times writes in his takeaways from the game. The club’s 6-of-33 (18.2%) mark from beyond the arc on Sunday was its worst single-game rate yet. Through three games, the Lakers’ 21.2% three-point percentage is easily the worst in the NBA — Chicago is second-worst at 29.3%.

Jazz Notes: Olynyk, Conley, Veterans, Fontecchio

New Jazz center Kelly Olynyk admitted that the trade sending him from Detroit to Utah caught him off guard, telling reporters this week that it felt as if it “came out of nowhere,” according to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. However, Olynyk expressed excitement about his new NBA home and suggested the deal reminded him of the last time Danny Ainge traded for him, on draft night in 2013.

“It’s crazy because when I got drafted by Boston, we were almost in the exact same situation with Danny that they’re in here right now,” Olynyk said. “You have some older guys with experience, you have some young guys, you got a bunch of draft picks coming in for the next few years, and you’re just trying to get better every single day, whatever that is.

“And in Boston, we had a young first-year coach in Brad (Stevens), and now we have a first-time, young head coach in Will (Hardy). And I think it’s going to be great for us — everybody’s going to be pulling the rope in the same direction. And that’s how you move things.”

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • Mike Conley and the other veterans who are still on the Jazz roster are preparing as if they’re going to be in Utah to open the season, but Conley pointed to the Donovan Mitchell trade in particular as a sign that no one is safe. “When Rudy (Gobert) got traded and Royce (O’Neale), you thought maybe that would be it,” Conley said, per Sarah Todd The Deseret News. “And then once Don got traded, the floodgates kind of opened up and now all of us are up in the air and didn’t really know what was going on.”
  • The Jazz will face a tricky balancing act this season as they attempt to find regular minutes for both their young players and their veterans, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. As Jones observes, developing the young core is the top priority in Utah, but the team also wants its veterans to boost their trade value and to show the youngsters the ropes.
  • Simone Fontecchio, who will be playing in the NBA for the first time after a decade in Europe, said during a media session this week that it felt like a “dream come true” to sign his first NBA contract with the Jazz. “It has been a long journey,” Fontecchio said, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net. “Now I am 26, almost 27. Sometimes, this dream felt a little bit far, but right now I am so happy and excited to be here.” Fontecchio added that he believes he can bring shooting, defense, and athleticism to the Jazz.

Jazz Notes: Sexton, Kessler, Azubuike, Conley, Clarkson, Zeller, Lee

New Jazz guard Collin Sexton has been fully cleared following last year’s knee injury that sidelined him for all but 11 games, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link). Newly acquired rookie big man Walker Kessler has also received clearance from his toe injury, Walden adds.

While Sexton and Kessler should be good to go for training camp, former Jazz first-rounder Udoka Azubuike isn’t quite there yet. According to Walden, Azubuike continues to progress from the ankle surgery that ended his 2021/22 season early, but has yet to be cleared for 5-on-5 work.

Here are a few more updates on the Jazz:

  • Following an offseason fire sale in Utah, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson look like obvious candidates to be traded at some point in the coming weeks or months. But general manager Justin Zanik said today that there has been “nothing but total buy-in from those guys,” so it doesn’t sound as if either Conley or Clarkson is pushing to be dealt (Twitter link via Walden).
  • Conley told reporters today that he’s “10 toes in” with the Jazz, even as he acknowledged the possibility of a trade. He’s conflicted about the idea of being moved, since he could end up with a contending team but would likely have to finish the season away from his family (Twitter links via Walden and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune).
  • After undergoing eight surgeries in nine years, Cody Zeller wants to show in Utah that he’s finally healthy, telling reporters today that he believes he can bring value to a young roster as an experienced veteran (Twitter link via Walden). The Jazz have a roster logjam to clear in the next few weeks, but Zeller should have a shot at a 15-man roster spot due to the team’s lack of veteran frontcourt depth.
  • Tony Jones of The Athletic sounds unconvinced that Saben Lee is part of the Jazz’s plans going forward, tweeting that he believes the newly acquired guard will need to have “a hell of a camp” in order to stick.