"Utah's got me."
Voiced Mike Conley in a recent interview with The Athletic.
Conley's contract will expire at the end of the season and he'll enter unrestricted free agency. It has never felt like a certainty that he'll resign with the Jazz. First off, he had a rough first year in the Beehive state and Jazz fans, while quick to forgive, weren't particularly patient. Further, Conley's next contract, though presumably smaller than his current 34.5 million dollar contract, will likely vault the Jazz into the luxury tax. And finally, he's an able three-point shooter, a plus defender, has the ability to initiate offense and play off the ball, and not to mention, took home the teammate of the year award in 2019: he will have plenty of suitors come free agency--presumably large-market contenders. And at the age of 34, as a player who has spent his entire career in small markets, been perpetually underrated, and consistently passed over for the All-Star game in a loaded Western conference, the opportunities must seem alluring.
And yet he stated:
“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.”
Mike Conley is not a man that asks much. However, he has been clear in his desire to be named an All-Star this year. However, it is the very thing that he loves about the Jazz (the style of play) that might be what prevents him from getting the nod he deserves.
“I think this year, honestly, I’m playing the best basketball of my entire career. Being 33 years old, I’ve never had the opportunity to play in the [All-Star] 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."
In one sentence to the next he goes from explaining his hope to be in the All-Star Game, to expressing genuine joy in the in the unselfish, defensive, physical gameplay of the Jazz. When was the last time an All-Star candidate talked about basketball being fun? Whenever it was, it wasn't during a year in which a pandemic made the league and country feel sparse and volatile. And yet, if perhaps he played a bit more selfishly and worried a bit more about his offensive opportunities than his defensive position, then it's possible he'd be getting the All-Star recognition he deserves. Rather, he's the professional the Jazz (and probably the rest of us) need right now.
While Mike Conley was not named an All-Star reserve Tuesday night, there's still a chance he gets in as an injury replacement (All-Star selection Anthony Davis is expected to miss due to injury).
But whether or not he puts on an All-Star uniform this year, I hope he's still suiting up in a Jazz uniform come next year.
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