Utah Jazz: Mike Conley may have played his final game as Jazzman

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports) /

There’s no guarantee that Mike Conley will suit up again for the Utah Jazz.

This summer, after two injury-riddled seasons as the Utah Jazz starting point guard, Mike Conley will become an unrestricted free agent. And currently, the 33-year-old first-time All-Star, who has now missed 52 games between the regular season and NBA Playoffs since arriving in Salt Lake City, continues to recover from a right hamstring strain that originally came with a “mild” tag.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound veteran has yet to play for the No. 1 seed Jazzmen in their Western Conference Semifinals bout against the No. 4 seed Los Angeles Clippers. Now, with the series in a 2-2 tie, Utah has ruled out Conley for its Game 5 home matchup at 8 p.m. MT Wednesday.

What happens after that pretty much remains anyone’s guess.

Frustration mounting for Utah Jazz playmaker Mike Conley

Judging from his comments to reporters on Wednesday, even Mike Conley is now essentially in the dark regarding his actual return date due to admittedly reinjuring the hamstring before Game 2 last week:

"“This is why it’s been extended a bit longer than I know we all would like. Obviously, if I could play, I would. There’s no question about that. But the progress we’re making now is really good. It’s just a little delayed.”"

Conley then vented while also leaving the door open for his possible reappearance in Game 6 or an if-necessary Game 7 versus the Clippers:

"“It’s very, very frustrating. Very frustrating…Obviously, to be sitting here right now, still not playing, I’m probably the most frustrated person that you’ll run into…The way things have been progressing, and obviously with the series as close as it is and as tight as it is, I think that [a return] this series is possible.”"

However, if his squad fails to advance with him stuck on the bench, well then like it or not, there is a real possibility Conley will never again lace ’em up for the Utah Jazz.

Granted, in light of Wednesday’s reported knee injury that has Los Angeles great Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely, Utah must like its chances to reach the Western Conference Finals, where the No. 2 seed Phoenix Suns already await. Yet seeing that the Clippers dominated the past two outings via strong efforts from a large cast, it’s no safe bet that Leonard’s absence will spell their doom.

Certainly worth noting, though, Conley could re-sign with the Utah Jazz regardless of this season’s eventual outcome. After all, he has repeatedly expressed his desire to do exactly that, including with this three-word confirmation to Tony Jones of The Athletic back in February:

"“Utah’s got me.”"

Although Conley explained his high comfort level as a Jazzman at the time, he alluded to the fact that he’ll soon be a top backcourt weapon on the market:

"“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.”"

Of course, looking at the situation from the Utah Jazz’s perspective, they may prove unwilling to shell out sufficient dough to keep Conley in town given his age and recent history with this untimely recurring injury.

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Finally, even if Utah manages to outduel Los Angeles without the No. 4 overall draft pick from 2007, there has to be a significant degree of unpredictability concerning his return for the next round. After all, Mike Conley added on Wednesday that he doesn’t anticipate being truly 100 percent until the offseason.