SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 18: Rudy Gay #8 of the Utah Jazz hugs Mike Conley #11 of the Utah Jazz during the game against the Toronto Raptors on November 18, 2021 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Nostalgia Takes Center Stage When Utah Hosts Memphis

After playing together for 5.5 years in Memphis to begin their careers, reunited teammates Mike Conley and Rudy Gay are looking to help the Jazz take down the Grizzlies on Monday night

To hear Mike Conley and Rudy Gay tell it, they each have different first memories regarding one another.

Gay, who was considered the savvy veteran despite entering his second season when he met Conley, remembers Conley walking into the gym for their first practice showing off his new tattoo at the time. He had his sleeve pulled up and came strutting into the gym, showing it off to anyone who would ask.

“For some reason, I remember that he had just gotten that tattoo. ... He walked in with his little arm sleeve rolled,” Gay said while laughing. “Mike came in and worked out, didn’t really talk much.”

“I was very proud. … Not so much now,” Conley added of the tattoo while smiling.

While Conley doesn’t deny that meeting or the tattoo, he remembers viewing Gay as the ‘top dog on campus.’ He credits a lot of his early success in the league to the mentorship he received from Gay.

“I thought he was the man, he was the top dog on campus kind of thing,” Conley said. “I looked up to him, tried to learn from him, and he’s always been a jokester and making people laugh. I just followed his lead on everything. … In a sense that he kind of showed me the ropes while he was still learning them himself.”

As a rookie with Memphis during the 2007-08 season, Conley was taken with the No. 4 overall pick. At the time, the Grizzlies envisioned pairing Conley with Gay, entering his second season with Memphis at the time. Together these two were expected to take the Grizzlies to new heights.

Despite putting up solid numbers together as teammates, they only made the postseason together one time, coming in the 2011-12 season. Despite losing to the Clippers in seven games in the first round, the future remained bright in Memphis.

The team started the next season 29-15 before shockingly, Gay was sent to Toronto as part of a six-player trade. After playing together for 5.5 seasons, the pairing was no more.

Fast forward to the present, and it’s safe to say that their careers have now come full circle. 

Not only are Conley and Gay back together on the court again, but they will also be facing their former team when Utah hosts Memphis tonight at Vivint Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST.

“It’s weird because I look at Rudy, I look at him now, and he looks the exact same,” Conley said. “When you look at pictures from 14-15 years ago, we look like little kids. It’s just amazing to see how it’s all come full circle and be on his team again. … We’re all just a little more mature, it’s pretty cool.”

Tonight’s game is far more than a homecoming for just Conley and Gay.

Hassan Whiteside, another one of Utah’s prized free agents they acquired this offseason, signed a non-guaranteed training camp deal with Memphis before the start of the 2014-15 season. While he never played a regular season game with the Grizzlies, he remembers playing with Conley during training camp and just admiring how the veteran point guard went about his business.

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder also has a very unique connection to Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins. 

Jenkins served on Snyder’s staff when the latter was the head coach of the G-League Austin Toros — coaching together for two years. They reunited during the 2013-14 season under Mike Budenholzer, serving as assistant coaches for the Atlanta Hawks. Snyder would then take over the Jazz the following season.

Despite the nostalgia, the game also serves as a rematch from last season’s first round playoff matchup — a series in which Utah won 4-1 that was much more physical and difficult than anyone expected.

The Jazz enter tonight on a three-game winning streak while Grizzlies have won two of their last three. 


Utah Jazz
*Udoka Azubuike: OUT / G League - On Assignment
*Jared Butler: OUT / G League - On Assignment
*Elijah Hughes: OUT / G League - On Assignment

Memphis Grizzlies
*Dillon Brooks: DOUBTFUL / right hamstring soreness
*De’Anthony Melton: OUT / right groin soreness
*Sam Merrill: OUT / left ankle sprain
*Yves Pons: OUT / G-League - Two Way

Time: 7 p.m. MST
Location: Vivint Arena / Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T Sports Network
Radio: 1280 The Zone 


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