Mike Conley

After Lengthy Absence, Conley “Ready To Go” For Jazz

After a left hamstring injury caused Jazz point guard Mike Conley to miss 19 of the team’s last 20 contests, the 32-year-old is probable to return to action in a home tilt against the Kings tonight, according to Aaron Falk of UtahJazz.com.

“I’ve been waiting a long time,” Conley told gathered reporters following a Saturday morning Jazz shootaround. “I’m ready to go.”

The Jazz thrived in Conley’s absence, going 16-4 without him, including a recently-snapped 10-game win streak. They are 12-9 with Conley in the lineup.

Expected to be the missing piece that could vault the Jazz into championship contention after the team had been a recent also-ran in the crowded West, Conley has been a disappointment thus far in Utah. He is averaging just 13.6 PPG, his lowest scoring mark since 2011/12, shooting a career-low 36.5% from the field.

“I try to play defense and be an unselfish teammate,” Conley said of his fit when he returns to the floor for the Jazz. “I think it will be easy to conform to what we’ve got going and try to elevate it as much as I can.”

Conley is in the fourth year of a five-year, $153MM contract he inked with the Grizzlies in 2016. He has a $34.5MM early termination option for the 2020/21 season. Given his recent decline with the Jazz, it is probable that he will opt in for the final year.

Utah’s Brass Discusses Jordan Clarkson Trade

The Jazz made the first trade of the NBA season, sending Dante Exum and a pair of second-rounders to the Cavs for Jordan Clarkson. VP of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey said the Jazz needed to make the move to add depth to the team, as Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune relays.

“We could feel that the starters were being stretched. … As the team started to form, we started to see some of the challenges that we had scoring with the second unit,” Lindsey said. “It certainly became a priority.”

The executive added that he thought depth may be an issue when the team lost several veterans, including Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder, this offseason. Utah’s bench was a major strength last season, but the franchise went into this year with an improved starting unit at the expense of depth.

Exum’s injury history and Mike Conley’s current hamstring woes also played a role in the deal.

“That timing dictated where we’re at. The one piece of the evaluation that we feel like is incomplete is, obviously, getting Mike integrated in, with now two hamstring injuries,” Lindsey said. “You know, we feel like there was a little bit of a gap in knowing who we really are and our arc for improvement. But we still felt like the bench scoring was so challenged that we needed to address it. … When Mike got hurt, we had to kind of speed up the evaluation and become a little bit urgent.”

While Conley’s injuries created a short-term need for an additional playmaker, GM Justin Zanik emphasized that the team was going to need to be deeper regardless.

“It still doesn’t change the fact that the bench needed to up the production, and we needed to see if there were other avenues to address that,” Zanik said.

Mike Conley To Miss More Time With Hamstring Injury

After missing five games with a left hamstring injury, Jazz point guard Mike Conley returned to action on Tuesday, but logged just 19 minutes before re-aggravating the injury and exiting the game. According to Shams Charania and Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter links), Conley’s hamstring issue is expected to sideline him once again going forward.

League sources tell The Athletic that Conley will at least miss multiple games. The Jazz will evaluate the injury on a day-to-day basis, but there’s a chance the veteran guard could be on the shelf for multiple weeks, according to Charania and Jones.

Conley, 32, has gotten off to a slow start in his first year in Utah. While his 36.0% rate on three-pointers is about in line with his career numbers, he’s making just 36.9% of his two-point attempts, easily a career worst. His 13.6 PPG also represent his lowest average since 2011/12.

In Conley’s absence, Utah inserted Joe Ingles into its starting lineup, giving Ingles and Donovan Mitchell the opportunity to share ball-handling duties. Ingles remained in the starting five when Conley returned on Tuesday, with Royce O’Neale returning to the bench — both players will likely start with Conley out again. Emmanuel Mudiay should also see regular minutes, with Dante Exum and Nigel Williams-Goss in the mix as emergency options.

And-Ones: Scola, Aldridge, 2020 Draft, Delgado

Luis Scola, who continues to play overseas with Italy’s Olimpia Milano, hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2016/17 season and the 39-year-old sounds pretty confident that a comeback isn’t happening. As he explains to Marc Stein of The New York Times, even the younger version of himself would have a hard time keeping up in today’s version of the NBA, with its faster pace and lack of low-post play.

“The good teams, they have better players. The bad teams, they have younger players. I just don’t think I am at that level anymore,” Scola said. “I was there at some point. But the game changed also. It would be more difficult for me to play, even at my prime, in today’s NBA.”

“I got a little bit lucky,” he continued. “The big change happened right at the end of my career, and I was able to play until I was 37. The low-post game is not there anymore. The long two are not there. I would adjust a little bit and be a different player, but I think this would be a little bit more difficult. The game is faster. The players move faster. They’re more athletic, longer. And I’m not a very good athlete. Those things would be against me in today’s NBA.”

While Scola recognizes a return to the NBA isn’t in the cards, he’s pleased about Argentina’s performance at this year’s World Cup, which secured the team a spot in the 2020 Olympics. Participating in those Olympics had been a major goal for Scola, which is one reason he has pushed to continue his professional career, as he tells Stein.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Frank Urbina and Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype spoke to NBA executives to try to gauge what LaMarcus Aldridge‘s trade value might be if the Spurs decide to become sellers. Various execs identified the Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Suns, and Kings as possible fits.
  • The general feeling among NBA teams about the top of the 2020 draft class remains “lukewarm,” according to Jeremy Woo of SI.com, who explores how LaMelo’s stellar NBL play is becoming harder to ignore as teams consider next spring’s top prospects.
  • Former Seton Hall standout and Clippers two-way player Angel Delgado has signed Israeli team Hapoel Holon, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Delgado, who appeared in two games for the Clips last season, spent time with the Beijing Royal Fighters earlier this year before being replaced by former NBA big man Jason Thompson.
  • Mike Conley is looking for the same kind of experience with the Jazz that his longtime Grizzlies teammate Marc Gasol had last season in Toronto, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Conley said he called Gasol on FaceTime shortly after the Raptors won the 2019 title. “Man, I watched every game and was rooting and hoping and praying,” Conley said. “… We were talking about that thing all our career, having an experience like that for himself is, just happy for him.”

Northwest Notes: Ingles, Towns, Nuggets, Jones, Conley

Jazz forward Joe Ingles has sought advice from San Antonio’s Patty Miles and New Orleans’ J.J. Redick as he adjusts to a sixth-man role, Aaron Falk of the team’s website reports. “It’s been a few years since I’ve come off the bench,” Ingles said. “I’m just figuring out different ways, what they do, their routines. If there’s anything I can steal or use to help our team win games, I’m going to do it.” Ingles is off to a slow start in his new role, averaging 7.6 PPG and 3.4 APG with a .400 FG%.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns has no regrets about his scrap with Joel Embiid that resulted in a two-game suspension, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets“Listen I’m going to defend myself. I ain’t going to take nothing,” he said. “That’s a very … talented player. I just had to defend myself in that situation.”
  • The Nuggets are getting an average of 36.7 points from their bench, putting them in the middle of the pack in the league, but forward Will Barton says they’re way better than that, Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post relays. “We’ve got the best bench in the league when we’re clicking on all cylinders,” Barton said.
  • Tyus Jones was grateful he had the chance to play for his hometown team, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune relays. Jones grew up in Minnesota and played four seasons for the Timberwolves. He signed a three-year offer sheet with the Grizzlies this offseason and Minnesota declined to match it. “Last year it was like, ‘Man, I might not get this chance again to play for my hometown team.’ … It was just a cool experience, something I’m grateful for because not everyone gets to do something like that. It’s pretty unique and pretty cool,” the point guard said.
  • Mike Conley is going through a bigger adjustment than anticipated, as the Jazz guard told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “It’s kind of a little bit out of my routine because I’ve had to watch more film on us than I can on the other teams because I’m still learning. … I’ve got a big guy now (in Rudy Gobert) who can go get it. I can throw pocket passes, but it’s a little different. We’ve got lob threats and shooters around. You’re just trying to figure out where guys like to come off screens, and which hand, and then just remembering the terminology,” he said. Conley, who was traded by the Grizzlies over the summer, is making a combined $67MM this season and next season.

Northwest Notes: Grant, Conley, Olson, Gasol

Jerami Grant is expected to start the season as the Nuggets’ backup power forward but he’ll also see time at center, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports. Grant was traded by the Thunder to Denver for a first-round pick.

“I think Jerami Grant can play (center),” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “Jerami’s ability to screen and roll, finish around the basket, catch passes in traffic and make plays from that, he’s really, really good in that regard.”

A small-ball lineup with Grant at center would cut into Mason Plumlee’s minutes in the Nuggets’ frontcourt, Singer notes.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Mike Conley has asserted himself as a team leader in the first week of the Jazz’s camp, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune writes. Utah is hoping that the longtime Grizzlies point guard will be the player that pushes the franchise to new heights.  Memphis traded Conley to Utah in a multi-player deal. “It’s unusual that you trust a player so quickly, but he’s earned that,” coach Quin Snyder said. “That’s who he is.”
  • The Jazz have named Jim Olson president of the franchise and Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment (LHMSE), according to a team press release. Olson, who has been in the organization for 25 years, had been the executive vice president for LHMSE and president of Vivint Smart Home Arena. He’ll oversee the day-to-day business operations of the Jazz.
  • Pau Gasol has embraced a mentoring role with the Trail Blazers, according to an Associated Press report. Gasol, who signed a one-year deal to join Portland, is hopeful to be ready by opening night as he rehabs from foot surgery but he’s asserting himself in camp in other ways. “I hope to add leadership on and off the court, experience and also quality of play,” he said. “I’m excited after a difficult health year, frustrating. I’m excited to just work on my body and be healthy so I can do what I do on the floor and just have fun with the guys and compete, and play as hard as I can.”

Northwest Notes: Conley, Teague, Roberson

Mike Conley is one of the biggest acquisitions in the history of the Jazz and the team is excited to have him around, as Matt John of Basketball Insiders writes. “Watching him play, being around him, seeing how he interacts,” head coach Quin Synder said. “When I say elite, that manifests itself in a lot of different ways.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest Division:

  • After a disappointing year in Minnesota, Jeff Teague is ready for a new campaign, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes. Teague missed 40 games with injuries last season for the Timberwolves and the point guard told Hine that he had never endured a season like that before.
  • Andre Roberson hasn’t played in nearly two years after rupturing his patellar tendon, but the wing is back on the court for Thunder, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman passes along. Roberson has been cleared to practice without restrictions.
  • The Nuggets have a battle on their hands for the starting small forward position, Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays. “By no means is there a leader in the clubhouse,” head coach Mike Malone said of the competition. Torrey Craig, Juan Hernangomez, Will Barton, and Michael Porter Jr. are among the options at the three.

Southwest Notes: Conley, Gordon, Barea, Harris

Mike Conley said Memphis still feels like “home” as he returned to the city on Saturday for the first time since an offseason trade sent him to Utah, relays Marc Giannotto of The Commercial Appeal. Conley was in town for his annual Bowl ‘N Bash, a charitable event that has always signaled that it’s nearly time to report to Grizzlies training camp.

This year will be different as Conley got the trade to a contender that he has been wanting and Memphis unloaded three costly contracts to officially kick off a youth movement. Conley said he still cares about the Grizzlies and was happy to see the team get a good return in deals involving himself, Marc Gasol and Chandler Parsons.

“Not a lot of players get that connection with the team or the organization. Like I really did care about how the team would fare after I left if I got traded, who they got in the trade,” Conley said. “It was almost like I was negotiating the deal for them, like make sure you get this, that and the other because you want to have more picks or more people, and I’m just thrilled to see the guys they got. They got a heck of a future in front of them because of the trades they were able to make for Marc, or myself, or Chandler, and just really turned it over well.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Eric Gordon heard his name mentioned a few times in trade rumors as the Rockets tried to add another star, but he tells Jenny Dial Creech of The Houston Chronicle that he always expected to remain with the team. The four-year extension he signed last week should solidify his place in Houston. “I know I’m valuable to this team,” Gordon said. “I think I’ve showed that. … I feel like I am going into my prime years. I can shoot, defend, be creative on offense. I have a lot to give.”
  • Mavericks guard J.J. Barea has received medical clearance for the start of training camp, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Barea, who is recovering from a torn Achilles, said he will be able to practice without restrictions when camp opens October 1.
  • Veteran guard Devin Harris tells Townsend that he’s “weighing options” about where to play this year (Twitter link). The 36-year-old, who appeared in 68 games for the Mavericks last season, added that it “needs to be the right opportunity.”

Mike Conley Talks Trade To Utah, Jazz’s Goals, More

The trade that sent Mike Conley from Memphis to Utah this offseason was one of the first major deals completed, and got buried under a flurry of free agency news, as All-NBA players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook changed teams.

Still, the Jazz‘s acquisition of Conley could ultimately end up being one of the summer’s most impactful moves. Utah has finished in the top five of the Western Conference in consecutive seasons and now has a third standout player to complement defensive anchor Rudy Gobert and up-and-coming star Donovan Mitchell.

Speaking to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Conley said that he’s excited to play alongside Mitchell in Utah’s backcourt, calling the 22-year-old a “special player” and suggesting that the two guards will help each other alleviate pressure from opposing defenses.

Conley also spoke about several other topics during his conversation with Kennedy, which is worth checking out in full. Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:

On getting used to no longer being a member of the Grizzlies:

“It’s still an adjustment. Even just hearing people call my name out and saying ‘Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz,’ it doesn’t even equate yet (laughs). I’m still trying to get used to that and waiting for it to become normal. It’s a new beginning, a new journey, a new challenge and I love that. You don’t get blessed with opportunities like this very often. I feel like I’m in a blessed situation to be part of this organization and hopefully do something special while I’m there.”

On his first impressions of Utah:

“The people, the fans, have just been so welcoming. My family and I really enjoyed ourselves in the two or three weeks that we’ve been able to spend there. Everyone is just so excited! The Jazz organization is top-notch in every way. Coach Quin [Snyder] is one of the best out there and we have a really good roster. We have all of those in one bottle, so we have a lot going on and it’s going to be exciting.”

On the Jazz’s goals for 2019/20:

“After talking to Coach Quin, we all realize what the ultimate goal is – and it’s everyone’s ultimate goal – and that’s winning a championship. We know that. Are we going to achieve the daily goals to become a champion? … That’s what it boils down to. I think we’re at the stage where we’re just working and trying to stay humble and stay focused and respect the game. At the end of the day, if we [achieve our daily goals], we have a good enough team, a good enough organization and good enough coaches to give ourselves a chance.”

On whether he’d be interested in coaching after his playing career is over:

“Yeah, I think coaching is kind of the natural progression for me. I think that’s something that I’d definitely enjoy, whether it’s coaching kids at any level or [coaching] all the way up to the NBA. It’s such a passion of mine, this game, and it’s something that I know so much about. And it’s one of those games that you can never figure all the way out, and I think that’s one of the things that I love about it. Hopefully I can continue to give back as much as possible.”

Harris Withdraws From Team USA This Summer

Add Tobias Harris‘ name to the growing list of USA Basketball players pulling out of consideration for this year’s FIBA World Cup. Harris, who re-signed with the Sixers for five years and $180MM this summer, has decided to focus on the upcoming NBA season, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.

Anthony Davis, James Harden, Bradley Beal, CJ McCollum and Eric Gordon have also withdrawn from Team USA participation this summer, starting with training camp in Las Vegas early next month. Two other players, Damian Lillard and Kevin Love, are also undecided and will announce their decisions in the next few days, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports.

Team USA will bring 12 players to the FIBA tournament. Among the players under consideration to replace the stars who have withdrawn, according to Vardon, include Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, D’Angelo Russell, Mike ConleyJosh Richardson, Thaddeus Young and Julius Randle. Select Team members could also be considered for the final 12-man roster, including Trae Young, Vardon adds. Top pick Zion Williamson has withdrawn from the Select Team this summer.

The original list of 20 invitees to the USA Basketball camp can be found here.