Mike Conley's return highlights 2021-22 content day
It was around 7 a.m. and Mike Conley found himself standing in line holding his son’s hand. Just like the other parents standing around him doing the same thing, Conley was half asleep but embracing the moment of normalcy as he was dropping his kids off at school.
It was a special moment for him because beginning on Tuesday—and running ideally through the end of June—Conley’s life will be anything but normal.
But before the season gets underway on Oct. 20, Utah held its annual media day at Vivint Arena on Monday morning.
In a way very fitting of Conley’s morning, the theme of family and chemistry were preached from nearly every player’s mouth throughout the day—and for good reason.
Labeled one of the most experienced teams in the league and looking for their breakthrough season, the Jazz are primed to put the past behind them and reach goals they’ve only dreamt of.
“We know we’ve come up short the past couple of seasons. … But rather than running from it we’re learning to embrace it,” Conley said. “We have a certain type of chemistry and knowledge within this organization and this team that should help us achieve our goals.”
One of the biggest changes for this upcoming season is Utah is now embracing a completely different role as a team. The Jazz are no longer considered the hunter, but rather being hunted every night.
“We aren’t catching any teams by surprise anymore,” shooting guard Donovan Mitchell said. “We have to come out with fire because people are now coming for us. We aren’t sneaking up on teams. … This is who we are now and we have to learn to embrace that role.”
Part of what Mitchell was saying is why Conley elected to return to Utah during free agency this offseason—by far the biggest victory for the Jazz this past summer.
Conley believes the team is very close to achieving something the city has never had, a world championship. He also believes that the journey is almost better than the result, meaning that what he’s been working on and building here in Utah—including the back-to-back rough playoff exits—will make it even more worth it if the Jazz are spraying champagne at the end of the season.
“Going through the free agency process, I didn’t really think I was going to be a true free agent. … This is a special organization from top to bottom and I knew I wouldn’t find something like it anywhere else,” Conley said. “To win a championship here, sticking it out through the tough times to take the long road where it’s never been done, that’s special. That was a major factor in me returning to the team.”
With Conley back in the fold, and the additions of Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside, Eric Paschall and draft pick Jared Butler, the Jazz believe they are deeper and more equipped for a long postseason run.
“Two years ago we were searching for an identity in the bubble, and we think we found it last year when we had the best record in the league,” Mitchell said. “But we came up short in the playoffs, so this year we want to push past the second round. It’s nice to have the best record but now we want to be the last team standing.”
Utah will hold training camp at the Wynn in Las Vegas from Tuesday through Thursday before returning home for an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. Then the four game postseason begins with a trip to San Antonio on Monday, Oct. 4.
1.) Monday, Oct. 4 @ San Antonio Spurs — 6:30 p.m. MST
2.) Wednesday, Oct. 6 @ Dallas Mavericks — 6 p.m. MST
3.) Monday, Oct. 11 vs. New Orleans Pelicans — 7 p.m. MST
4.) Wednesday, Oct. 13 vs. Milwaukee Bucks — 7 p.m. MST