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Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley is healthy, comfortable and reminding everyone just how good he is
BOSTON • “They’re quiet tonight!” Donovan Mitchell shouted. “They’re quiet!”
Mike Conley smiled and kept quiet, too.
The veteran point guard had just dropped 25 points and dished out five assists to lead the Utah Jazz to an impressive 99-94 road win over the Boston Celtics. The performance didn’t leave much for Conley’s doubters to talk about, so Mitchell and his teammates took it upon themselves to fill the silence inside the visitors’ locker room at TD Garden.
"I don't want to hear anymore Mike Conley slander," forward Georges Niang said. "The guy can hoop."
“It’s just funny how people work,” Mitchell added. “Y’all can continue to hate and say what y’all want. I see it. I know he does, too. But that’s Mike Conley. He’s a Hall of Famer, one of the best to play at his position.”
That’s the Conley the Jazz traded for last summer and, after an uneven start to his first season in Utah, that’s the Conley who has helped his squad win for straight games as they surge toward the postseason.
“There’s way less thinking,” Conley said. “I’m just playing the game. After playing together for a while now, I’m feeling in charge, knowing how you can put guys in position to be successful and make plays, knowing what times in the game that I can be aggressive.”
Conley has admitted he’s been frustrated at times this year, but he has kept his approach the same.
“It’s no secret he’s had his ups and downs, but he’s a guy who has been even-keeled throughout the whole process,” Mitchell said. “That’s what’s really special about him.”
“That’s just my personality,” Conley said. “I’ve been through a lot. A lot of highs. The lowest of lows. That’s why I am how I am. I can help everybody feel like the world’s not going to end [when we lose]. Also, when we’d won 10 games in a row, reminding guys that we’re not that good yet and we have a long way to go.”
Frankly, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder expected ups and downs in Conley’s first season with the Jazz, his first season with a new club after spending 12 years in Memphis. Conley had a new home, a new system, a new number, a new pick-and-roll partner. The guard’s acclimation process was hampered, too, by two hamstring injuries and a slow reintroduction to playing that saw Conley limited by a precautionary minutes restriction.
“But the work he’s put in to get himself in a good place is starting to show,” Snyder said.
Conley has found his stride at the right time.
“I feel good, man. I feel really good,” Conley said. “I’m in a great place. My teammates have been behind me this whole time. It’s been a frustrating road for all of us. They know how good I am. I know how good I am. I just have to sit back and let people say what they’re going to say until it starts to work. Finally, we’re turning a corner.”
As the Jazz play through their most important stretch of the season, their most-veteran player has led with his words.
“I’m telling my teammates to put the foot on the pedal right now,” Conley said. “Every practice, every film session, every day we have off to recover and get our bodies right, is important. It’s not time to hang out and do all those other things. It’s time to get locked in a get ready for a strong push.”
And Conley has led with his play.
The point guard has averaged 16.8 points and 4.9 assists over his last 10 games. During that stretch, he has shot 48.4 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from 3-point territory.
“Is there something you see that makes you believe that’s sustainable?” a reporter asked Snyder before Friday’s game.
“I would ask the question: Is there something that makes someone think it’s not sustainable?” Snyder replied. “This is who he is."