Mike Conley

Southwest Notes: Parker, Pelicans, Conley

Recently relegated reserve guard Tony Parker will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but the veteran is eager to remain with the Spurs if they’ll have him, Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express News writes.

My priority is to stay here. I want to stay here for sure,” Parker said before pausing and adding that it’s ultimately Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich‘s decision.

In 28 games for the Spurs this season, Parker has averaged 8.1 points and 3.9 assists. Recently, however, Parker has ceded his starting role to 21-year-old Dejounte Murray. As a starter, Parker averaged 23.8 minutes per game. In seven games off the bench, that’s dropped to 17.4 and his other stat totals have predictably dropped too.

As Young writes, when Parker’s three-year, $43MM deal expires, the 35-year-old could attract the attention of other teams potentially looking to add veteran support. In 2016, the Sixers made a hefty offer to Manu Ginobili.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Veteran Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley made the decision to undergo season-ending heel surgery to correct an issue that he’s been struggling with for some time now, Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. “I’ve had this for three years. All the way back three years ago one of the doctors said eventually you’ll need to have this heel shaved down,” Conley said “I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to exhaust every option before going to that extent.”
  • Teams around the league have realized that Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis isn’t available, but that doesn’t mean circumstances won’t change if the franchise eventually shakes up its front office, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes.
  • Don’t tell Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry how to manage his team’s minutes. Gentry, in his third-year at the helm of the franchise, told William Guillory of The Times-Picayune that he plays his stars big minutes out of necessity.

Southwest Notes: Cousins, Pelicans, Conley, Gay

The season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins hasn’t changed the Pelicans‘ plans to add talent by the February 8 trade deadline, according to Scott Kushner of The Journal Times. The loss of Cousins, who was averaging 25.5 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, leaves a big hole in the lineup and New Orleans will be aggressive on the trade market to try to compensate for his absence.

The Pelicans, who hold a three-game lead over the ninth-place Clippers, don’t plan to change their approach on the court without Cousins. They will continue to push the pace and emphasize ball movement, with Anthony Davis sliding from power forward to center except in rare occasions when he is on the floor with Omer Asik.

“There’s a whole lot of season left,” Jrue Holiday said. “There’s still half the season left. So, people have to step up and we’ve got to come together even more.”

There’s more this morning from the Southwest Division:

  • The injury to Cousins may alter the Pelicans‘ future in several ways, Kushner writes in a separate story. The immediate and most obvious decision is whether to trade for another big man, with Enes Kanter, Brook Lopez and DeAndre Jordan among the possible names who might be available. The next choice is how to handle Cousins’ free agency this summer. Sources tell Kushner that New Orleans was planning to offer a max deal worth about $175MM over five years, but that’s far from certain now with Cousins projected to be sidelined for six to 10 months, then facing an uncertain future once he recovers. The injury may also affect the status of GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry, who were both on shaky ground coming into the season. They appeared to be safe with the Cousins-Davis tandem meshing well and the Pelicans on their way to a playoff appearance, but a late-season collapse could signal the end for both in New Orleans.
  • Grizzlies point Mike Conley, who will have season-ending heel surgery, had been considering the procedure for a long time before he and the team decided it was necessary about a week ago, relays Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He always knew he could have done this. He wanted to avoid it,” said his father and agent, Mike Conley Sr. “It wasn’t like he saw somebody and they said he needed to do it. He didn’t want to be out four or five months this season if he could avoid it. But he’ll be back at top shape in five months.”
  • The Spurs expect injured forward Rudy Gay to return after the All-Star break, according to Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News. Gay, who has missed the past 15 games with bursitis in his heel, was hoping to start playing again next week, but after consulting with doctors the decision was made to be cautious.

Mike Conley To Miss The Rest Of The Season

According to an official team press release, Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley will undergo surgery to smooth a small bone protrusion in his left heel that continues to cause pain and soreness, leaving him unavailable for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Conley is expected to make a full recovery prior to next season’s training camp.

In addition to the official release from the team, General Manager Chris Wallace sent an email to Memphis season-ticket holders earlier today, stating “Mike has been extremely diligent as we pursued multiple different approaches to alleviate the pain before deciding surgery was the best solution.”

Conley was able to participate in three-on-three scrimmages earlier this month, but the injury did not improve. Conley has appeared in just 12 games this season, last playing in mid-November. He averaged 17.1 points and 4.1 assists per game.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Leonard, Matthews

It’s inevitable, Keith Smith of RealGM writes, that the Grizzlies will need to trade Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The two veterans were the last longtime core players standing after Zach Randolph and Tony Allen departed during the offseason and could help the franchise land desperately needed assets on their way out.

Although both players are approaching the wrong side of their primes, they could make an impact for contending teams. Gasol, Smith writes, could even land the Grizzlies a package of draft picks and young players if dealt.

Finding a suitor for Conley may be slightly more difficult as he’s owed nearly $114MM through 2020-21. For that reason, the scribe suggests that the Grizzlies should jump at any opportunity to get out of the deal if they get a chance, even if the yield is less than expected.

The moves may be difficult, Smith adds, but they’d put the Grizzlies on the quickest course to building a new contender.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • While it was announced that Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard would be out for an “indefinite period” of time to rehab his right quadriceps injury, the injury isn’t as disastrous as some have interpreted it as. “Career-threatening shouldn’t even be in the conversation,” one person close to Leonard told Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).
  • Rockets CEO Tad Brown was surprised that the league didn’t come down on Blake Griffin for allegedly hitting head coach Mike D’Antoni, Sam Amick of USA Today writes. Gerald Green and Trevor Ariza were the only players suspended for their parts in the kerfuffle that unfolded in Los Angeles on Monday night.
  • Unsure of where the Mavs currently fall in the To Tank Or Not To Tank debate, Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News writes that there’s no major incentive to unload Wesley Matthews. The economics of the league have changed since Matthews signed his four-year, $70MM contract back in 2015. These days, the approximately $18MM cap hit for the lockdown perimeter defender doesn’t seem as outlandish as it did in the past.

Grizzlies Notes: Conley, Season Outlook, Evans

The Grizzlies currently have one of the NBA’s worst records, with their 12-27 mark putting them in a tie for last place in the Western Conference. Still, in a recent interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, injured point guard Mike Conley expressed optimism that the team can still turn things around and make a run at a playoff spot this season.

“I know we are near the bottom right now, but we definitely have enough time,” Conley said. “We have enough time if we are able to put everything together in a short period of time and put enough wins together to make a run. Health is the key. Health is the No. 1 thing. Not try to rush everything. Just make that push by making sure everything is in order, like myself and the rest of the guys that are banged up.”

Speaking to Spears, Conley also addressed David Fizdale‘s ouster, his nagging Achilles injury, his contract, and the state of the Grizzlies — on that last point, Conley acknowledged that the team’s outlook has undergone “a 180” since the start of the season, but reiterated that he still believes the ship can be righted.

Here’s more out of Memphis:

  • The club would be better off waving the white flag on this season and pointing toward a more realistic playoff push next season, Chris Herrington of the Memphis Commercial Appeal opines. The franchise could make a quick turnaround by bringing in a high draft pick to go along with its veteran core, Herrington continues. That means reducing the minutes of Marc Gasol and Chandler Parsons and allowing Mike Conley’s sore Achilles to fully heal. They should also move the expiring contracts of Tyreke Evans and Brandan Wright before the trade deadline, Herrington adds.
  • Evans can only be offered the mid-level exception, so the team would be wise to trade him now and perhaps make another run at him in the summer, as Herrington explains in a separate piece. Herrington proposes potential trades involving Evans to the Spurs, Wizards, Pelicans, Pistons and Raptors, mostly involving a player or two and a first-round pick.
  • Earlier today, we passed along an update from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on the Grizzlies’ potential asking price for Evans and the team’s unwillingness to consider moving Marc Gasol.

Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.

Southwest Notes: Conley, McRoberts, D. Smith, Rondo

Mike Conley is traveling with the Grizzlies on their road trip and is hoping to return to action soon, according to Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Conley, who has missed 23 games with an aching left Achilles and heel, appears to have made significant progress in his rehab program, Tillery notes after watching his pre-game workouts.

Conley and the Grizzlies haven’t commented on a possible return date. The team issued its last medical update December 18, saying Conley would be out at least two more weeks. Tillery expects further news to be announced Monday or Tuesday. After a strong start to the season, Memphis has collapsed without Conley, going 4-19 to tumble into the Western Conference basement.

There’s more today from the Southwest Division:

  • Josh McRoberts is getting closer to making his debut with the Mavericks, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Acquired from the Heat in an offseason trade, McRoberts has been sidelined with a lower extremity injury. There was hope that he might be able to play tonight against the Thunder, but he has been declared inactive, tweets Earl K. Sneed. With McRoberts returning and Nerlens Noel expected back from thumb surgery in early to mid-January, the Mavericks will again have an abundance of big men that will likely be resolved by a trade before the February 8 deadline.
  • Regardless of whatever else happens this season, the Mavericks are confident they have a building block for the future in Dennis Smith Jr. The rookie point guard has been everything Dallas expected when it made him the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft, although coach Rick Carlisle said he still needs to learn how to be a leader at the NBA level. “We drafted him because we think he can be a great player, one of the best players to ever play in a Mavericks’ uniform, on the one hand,” Carlisle said. “On the other hand, the things that are really essential to winning and are very nuanced aren’t screaming out to the world the way a triple-double is. And he’s understanding that. It’s a huge step.”
  • Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters not to read too much into his decision to leave Rajon Rondo on the bench during the fourth quarter of Friday’s loss to Dallas, relays Christian Boutwell of The Journal Times. Gentry opted for veteran backup Jameer Nelson, but that probably won’t be the start of a trend. “It had nothing to do with Rondo, or the way he was playing or anything like that,” Gentry said. “It was just coach’s instinct.”

Southwest Notes: Gentry, Noel, Grizzlies

The Pelicans are a fringe playoff team in the Western Conference, competitive enough to keep striving for the postseason but not quite ready to shed the mediocre label and genuinely compete. Unsurprisingly, Pels fans have started calling for head coach Alvin Gentry‘s job, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

While axing a head coach is often the first knee-jerk reaction that fans – and sometimes teams – have when things aren’t going as well as they could be, this could be a particularly bad time for the Pelicans to let Gentry go. For one, it would display a sense of desperation that could send a negative signal to their pair of superstar big men.

Guillory writes that both the coaches and the players should be to blame for the Pelicans’ woeful defense. They’ve ranked dead last in defensive efficiency this month, futile enough to overpower any offensive strides the team has taken.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

Mike Conley Expected To Be Sidelined Into New Year

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, who last played on November 13, is expected to be sidelined until sometime in 2018, according to a press release issued by the Grizzlies. The club announced today that Conley continues to undergo therapy and treatment on his left heel, with the next update on his status to be provided in about two weeks.

Conley, 30, has only played in 12 games this season for Memphis, having been nagged by heel and Achilles issues for several weeks. His absence has had a massive impact on the Grizzlies, who went 7-5 with him in the lineup and have lost 16 of 18 games without him.

Despite the Grizzlies’ struggles and Conley’s ongoing absence, the team has repeatedly insisted that there are no plans to rebuild or to significantly retool the roster this season. Even if that stance were to change, a Conley trade might be a long shot. His trade value, already potentially affected by his injury problems, would also be adversely impacted by his contract. Conley has a $28.5MM cap hit this season, and his salary will exceed $30MM annually starting next year, making him one of the league’s highest-paid players. His deal runs through 2020/21.

With Conley still on the shelf, the Grizzlies will continue to lean on Mario Chalmers and Andrew Harrison at the point, with Tyreke Evans and Ben McLemore also getting opportunities to handle the ball.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies also announced in today’s press release that injured big man Brandan Wright is expected to return this week, while injured guard Wayne Selden should get back on the court before the end of the calendar year.

Grizzlies GM: No Plans To Rebuild This Season

A loss in San Antonio on Wednesday extended the Grizzlies’ losing streak to nine games and dropped the team to 7-13 on the season. However, according to general manager Chris Wallace, the team has no plans to shift into rebuilding mode this year. As Wallace explained to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, the Grizzlies fully expect to contend once they get healthy, and they’re “full speed ahead” with the current roster.

“We’ve been in the playoffs seven years in a row,” Wallace said. “We’ve got a team when fully healthy and we get everything together is more athletic, more versatile and more potent offensively than we’ve had for a number of years. Even though the going has been a little difficult early, there’s still 62 [games] to play. We believe in this team.”

In the wake of the decision to bench Marc Gasol during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn, there was speculation about a potential trade involving Gasol. Memphis’ decision to dismiss David Fizdale a day later quieted those rumblings to a certain extent, but given the club’s health issues and its record through 20 games, there were some executives who believed the Grizzlies would continue to explore their options with Gasol. Wallace told MacMahon that’s not the case.

“We have no intention to trade Marc,” Wallace said. “We never seriously considered that at all. We never placed any calls to any teams in that regard. So that’s not happening. … It’s not just Marc that this whole equation is about. It’s also Mike Conley when he comes back. We’ve got two guys among the elite in the league at their respective positions that are still very much in their window with an awful lot of tread left on their tires.”

While the Grizzlies’ stance may frustrate some fans and observers, it would be tricky for the team to engage in an all-out rebuild at this point. Conley and Chandler Parsons still have multiple guaranteed years left on their massive contracts after this season, which would make it difficult to get a solid return in any trade involving them. Gasol, who has a slightly less lucrative salary and a shorter-term deal, has a bit more trade value, but hasn’t been at his best so far this season, limiting his appeal to potential suitors.

For his part, Gasol says he’s happy the front office is willing to stick with the current group a little longer. However, as MacMahon details, the veteran center acknowledges that the Grizzlies’ stance may change quickly if the team doesn’t start winning.

“You know how brutal and how the reality is in the NBA and how much things can change fast, so you’ve got to really do the most and get the most out of every minute that you’re able to,” Gasol said. “Obviously, you appreciate the confidence and the trust that they’re showing in myself and Mike, because maybe the next step once you try to fix it by replacing the head coach, then it’s your big guns, try to change them, too. That may be the natural step, but they’re sticking with us.”

Southwest Notes: Conley, Hill, Anderson, Kleber

Mike Conley is making progress with his injured left heel and Achilles and should return in two to three weeks, according to a story on the Grizzlies’ website. The point guard has responded well to therapy and treatment to promote healing, the team says.

No timetable was set for Conley’s return when he first suffered the injury in mid-November. Memphis has gone 0-6 without Conley to fall into 12th place in the Western Conference and fired coach David Fizdale on Monday.

There’s more news from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans forward Solomon Hill is improving after surgery in August for a torn hamstring, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Coach Alvin Gentry told reporters tonight that Hill is a “little bit ahead of schedule” in the rehab process. “We talk to him and communicate with him to try to see what’s going on,” Gentry said. “But it’s just a time injury. You can’t work harder to come back quicker.” Hill was mainly a starter for New Orleans last season, averaging 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 80 games.
  • Spurs swingman Kyle Anderson will be in a strong position when he enters free agency next summer, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPN. With Kawhi Leonard sidelined since preseason, Anderson has stepped into the starting lineup and has impressed San Antonio’s front office with his performance, averaging career highs in points (9.2), rebounds (6.3) and assists (3.2) through 20 games. “Free agency happens this coming July, and he’ll be in a better position because of the way he’s played,” Spurs GM R.C. Buford said. “We’ll be in a better position because we know the role that he can fill with the team that we have. We’ll evaluate Kyle’s free agency as a part of the whole team, but he’s clearly put himself in a position to be respected in free agency.”
  • Rookie Maxi Kleber is getting some of the credit for the Mavericks‘ improved performance over their past six games, relays Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. After a terrible start, Dallas has gone 3-3 since moving Kleber into the starting lineup. “Kleber’s given us a lot more flexibility defensively,” said coach Rick Carlisle. “He’s been one of our better defenders. When you add a guy like that, that can guard people individually and can switch liberally and keep little guys in front of him, that helps.”
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