Nick Bolerjack

Mike Conley is reworking his game-day routine, settling into his new Utah home, and finding success on the court

by Aaron Falk

Mike Conley is a creature of habit and over the past 12 years, he developed a meticulous gameday routine from which he never wavered. “There’s a lot,” a grinning Conley says when pressed for details of his regimen. So, here’s the abridged version:

• Wake up

• Potato hash, oatmeal, and a protein shake for breakfast

• Head to the gym early to get shots up

• Go through shootaround with his team

• Go home

• Penne pasta with red sauce and a salad for lunch

• Sequester himself in his room for 2.5 hours to nap or watch TV or game film

• Arrive at the arena 3 hours before tipoff

• Stretch

• More shots

• Hot tub, cold tub

• Get stretched again, ready for the game

“Oh, and I also have to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich somewhere in there as a snack,” Conley says.

Got all of that?

In retrospect, maybe it shouldn’t have been such a surprise when something looked off with Conley during his first days in a Utah Jazz jersey, his first NBA season outside of Memphis. Even subtle changes can have an impact. And Conley realizes now he was starting over.

“I don’t like to make excuses for anything, but it truly does” have an impact, he said this week. “Everything’s new.”

Conley’s struggles out of the gate have been well documented. He went 1-for-16 from the floor in his debut as a Jazzman. A week later, after a 0-for-7 night in Phoenix, Conley was shooting just 17.7 percent from the floor.

Meanwhile, Conley also felt out of sorts off the court.

“We didn’t move into our house until – we’ve got two (boys), 3 and 1 – and they moved into our house the day before the first game,” Conley told The Athletic. “They just got there on Oct. 23, first game of the year basically. I was all out of (whack) because I’m a really routine type of guy. And we finally got everything straightened out, but we didn’t have – one night we’re sleeping in the hotel, and the next night we’re sleeping at home. I’m like, ‘I’ve got to get this together.’”

Even Conley’s commute felt off.

“It takes me 8 minutes to get to the arena when it used to take me 40,” he said. “I used to listen to the same music for a 35-minute drive. Now I don’t have that.”

Jazz coaches and front-office leaders weren’t worried. It would only be a matter of time before the veteran point guard, the one who had been one of the league’s best floor generals for over a decade, would settle in.

“Nobody thought Mike Conley was a bad shooter,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said.

Conley had his first breakthrough on Oct. 30, going off for 29 points against the LA Clippers. A week later, Jazz general manager Justin Zanik watched Conley help Utah beat the Philadelphia 76ers and felt he had finally seen his point guard truly comfortable in his new system.

“He’s been in the same organization for 12 years,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said. “Same house. Same places you go to eat and the same routine. All of that was uprooted this summer. And he’s so unselfish in wanting to integrate his teammates as a leader on the team, I think he’s done that while at the same time trying to figure out his place. I thought he looked much more comfortable out there.”

Conley felt the same thing.

“As the season’s gone on, the more games we’ve played, the more I’m getting comfortable in the system,” he said. “I’m still learning but we’re going in the right direction. … I’m just trying to speed up the learning curve of the whole thing. I’m understanding where I can be effective and help everybody be their best selves.”

The point guard has averaged 18.7 points (44.8 FG%, 43.2 3P%) and 3.9 assists over his last seven games.

Off the court, the veteran feels like he’s finding his place in his new home, too.

“Routines do change,” he said. “And I think as the games have gone on, I’ve dialed in and gotten into a routine that hopefully, I can do the rest of the season.”

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