NBA / Jan 13, 2010 / 3:22 pm

Mike Conley leads the Memphis resurgence

Mike Conley hit the genetics lottery. The son of an Olympic gold-medal triple jumper, he is a natural athlete. After he and Greg Oden led Ohio State to the NCAA national title game as freshmen, Conley was drafted fourth overall in the ’07 NBA Draft.

Since then, he has gone from Memphis’ point guard of the future, to backup, then back to being a starter again. Conly could be considered the main reason Allen Iverson abruptly left Memphis after just four games — after A.I. realized he wasn’t going to be handed Conley’s job — and while the young floor general’s numbers this year (10.1 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.1 spg) aren’t too different from his career averages, he has guided Memphis to a 19-18 record through Tuesday’s schedule.

Here he talks about developing into a legit NBA starter, his toughest point guard matchup, and his relationship with coach Lionel Hollins:

On growing up in a track household…
My dad never forced me to run track or anything. I just idolized Michael Jordan and all those guys back then and always wanted to be a basketball player. I had never ran track at a young age, so I just stuck to basketball.

On having it both ways…
I’m ambidextrous in pretty much everything. Sometimes I shoot better right-handed, so I’m kind of confused in a lot of different things. I golf both ways and bowl both ways, so it’s kind of tough for me. I have two sets of clubs — a righty and a lefty. I think people would be surprised to know I’m a good bowler. My best is 256. And that was right-handed with a little bit of left sprinkled in there.

On NBA growing pains…
With the inconsistencies, my confidence took a toll the past few years. But at the same time, I tried to take it as a learning experience instead of getting down and letting it take away from my performance. When I was coming off the bench, I just wanted to do what my role was. I tried to do that to the best of my ability.

On working with Coach Hollins…
Coach had a lot of belief and trust in me last year. He gave me the ball, let me play basketball and let me be the point guard for the team. And I hadn’t had that opportunity before he came. That really put a lot of confidence in me, and I really didn’t want to let my teammates down or let him down. I wanted to prove to everybody that I belonged with this team and belonged as a starter, so I wanted to play like a starter.

On his toughest 1-on-1 matchup…
I’d say the toughest point guard I’ve had to guard would have to be Deron Williams. I mean, he’s a total package when it comes down to size and speed, his shooting ability and the way he sees the floor. It’s really tough to gauge what he’s going to do because he’s going at different speeds and changes gears so quickly. It’s tough to anticipate what he’s going to do next.

On the Grizzlies’ unexpected success…
There is a huge buzz around the city of Memphis right now. Throughout the papers and news and everything, people are starting to notice us and they’re very optimistic about the season — as are we. We think we’re going to have a turnaround season. We’re tired of losing so many games each year. This year, there’s a lot of motivation around the locker room and we just want to prove to everybody that we can be a good team in this League.

On losing the national championship game in college…
I think about it all the time. I never watched the national championship game over again. I don’t even want to. It’s been tough, but you got to take it how it goes. [My teammates] try to take it easy on me more often than not. I hear about it a lot from a lot of ex-Florida players like Mike Miller and guys like that. They give me a hard time about that.

Reprinted from Dime #54

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  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    mike conley jr still sucks.
    i dunno what anyone has seen in him or from to conclude anything else.
    he aint hanging on the nuttsack of greg oden, but he’s just not that good and not a player who can stand own his own and hold it down.

    seriously yall……is Mike Conley Jr. one of the best 50 point guards in the world to be playing in the NBA?


  • sh!tfaced

    He definitely SUCKS. A major bust for a 4th pick on his 3rd year in the L. Aaron Brooks, a 27th pick, who came from the same draft class as Conley is waaaaaay better.

  • sh!tfaced

    Even 56th pick Ramon Sessions is better.

  • http://dime help

    Nice write up & all. Seems like a cool kid & good guy. On a basketball note though he’s terrible. Worse than Chris Duhon. He seems confused all the time. Can’t dribble. Shoots bricks on pull ups & is a defensive liability. I’d take Steve Blake or White Chocolate now. He’s not better than anybody in the league. Look at this for instance. He may never get in trouble or give the league bad press but as a fan looking to win games. You’re going to be dissappointed nightly. He’s not a starter. His game is what it’s going to be. To have people in the league that are talentless. It’s a smack in the face to those who truly deserve to be here. I know for a fact he’s not the best player in his hometown. If he came to NYC,Phila,DC or Chi. I’m sure some players would embarass so bad he retired from the league or choose another sport. What guard fears him in the league. Does he have a highlight tape?

    Mr Gerald you lost a lot of credibility with this one. He’s not even good in 2k. Did his agent or Oden’s pop pay you for this article. Look at his face. He looks overwhelmed. Like what the hell am I doing out here. I don’t even think the players respect him. They may like he’s respectful & comical. This kid is really really bad. So you believe he’s a better talent than Marcus Williams & Tinsley. I know players in Memphis that probably stop playing basketball because they see this kid running their franchise. Is his autograph worth anything. I really can’t believe you wrote he leads the resurgence

    @1 What the Heck man. LOL. This kid might be one of the worse players to ever play in the N.B.A.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @help — You seem a little too critical. Are you that guy from Conley’s hometown who is supposedly better than him?

    Anyway, I don’t think Conley is great, but he is at least proving himself to be a decent NBA PG this year. His team is above .500 and he’s had good games — some 20-pt nights here and there, plys he made the game-winner in OT against Cleveland — along the way. They say QB’s and PG’s are judged on wins and losses, and he’s winning right now.

  • http://dime help

    The scout that followed him & pushed for the selection. Yeah you. YOU SUCK & SHOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED THE DAY AFTER THE PICK. How many scouts & analysts in basketball actually played & would know how to judge talent? I’m pretty sure it’s minimal at best. The overall talent & majority of teams have no stars & role players. The N.B.A. is as marketable as ever or so they say. There’s no disparity or rivalries in the league. They’re aren’t enough players you could relate too. It’s become a job. It’s like I’m looking at people that are just happy to be there collecting a check.

    Is that really a way to run something? As long as profit is generated everything is Okay? What about the fans that want to see talented people battle one another. Why lie & say the best players in the world play in the league. Who chooses the players & has the final say over what teams & players should be marketed. It’s all corrupt & ran poorly. Is Mike Conley better than Smush Parker,Sebastian Telfair,Andre Barrett,Tyliek Brown,Shamgod,Omar Cook,Daryll Hill. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    Then why the hell is his politically correct self taking up a roster spot & preventing a team from maximizing it’s full potential. This kid isn’t even better than some rec ball players i’ve seen. I could get a high school kid now that would kill him. Ask OJ Mayo if Conley is better than Corey Fisher who sauced his team in high school in foul trouble. 37pts 11ast with the W on national tv. I still have the DVR. Might put that out. I tell people you just don’t know talent. If Villanova was Pro Corey Fisher & he didn’t have tendinitis & redshirted on year. The college scene would be going crazy. Dickie V would lose his voice doing this kid’s game. I know though Scottie Reynolds is a better pro prospect than him. What is he avg? He’s a 2 guard right? He can’t play D? He’s from NYC. Somebody Tweet OJ Mayo & ask his opinion of Corey Fisher?
    Scouts man do your homework or hire someone to do it for you? You could still make the money & get all the press. The league is suffering though. Is John Wall the only point guard in college?

  • http://dime help

    @AB…Seriously that was corny. No I’m not from Memphis but please you & your politically correct N.B.A. friends & contacts have ruined this league. You guys don’t judge talent. You look at schools,which neighborhood the kid is from. Is he textbook. Who are you anyway? Did you ever play basketball & where. I’m also pretty sure I’d kill you now & I don’t play anymore.

    You can stand up for every bum in the league & write as many fact or # proving columns you’d like. He SUCKS. You know it. He knows it. Stern knows it. The Grizzlies know it. Of course you have to take the stance you took. What analyst can actually tell the truth on air. NONE. They have a job & thats to promote the players in a good light? No one in the league sucks. They all deserve to be there.

    The bad part is I know you have connects & could make or break someone who truly deserves a chance. You probably made the call or cosigned this kid. Let me guess Luke Harongody is the best big man college. What does that say about college. He’s going to dominate the N.B.A. Is he a top 10 pick in this league. Will he ever start? Cherokee Parks was better than this dude & what happened to his career.

    You know what’s sad if a European had a NYC or street game he’d be considered the next great thing. The same kid from the states is to much for the league. WHY IS THAT? Ricky Rubio’s game is text book & fundamentally sound? Also AB let Gerald stick up for himself he wrote the story? The only reason you replied is because deep down you know he sucks & can’t say it. I’d hate to be in that predicament. Most of you guys are all LIARS To yourselves to get that paycheck. Hey I’m not mad though. Just wish isn’t wasn’t that way. It’s ruined the league. Anybody can make it with the right backing. Usually it’s the one’s that would have been more succesful out of basketball. The ones that spent their life perfecting their craft are blackballed from the league. THANKS GUYS. REAL FANS OF THE GAME & FORMER PLAYERS WHO AREN’T CONTRACTED BY THE LEAGUE KNOW WASSUP. I hope a book comes out of all the nonsense that goes on behind closed doors.

  • me

    Tell em why u madd son!

  • MC11

    Some of you guys obviously haven’t been watching Grizzlies ball on a constant basis. Mike was actually pretty good since the last half of last season. Though his stats are down a bit he’s actually playing much better and with the exception of a minislump in early january because of shoulder injuries he’s been great!
    P.S. His auto is worth much much more than Rammon Sessions. lol.

  • Mikeb09

    You guys forget that Conley only went to college one year. Also, despite the fact he was picked so high, Coach Iavaroni sat him on the bench. So he didn’t really develop and he would have continued to be a bust if Iavaroni hadn’t been fired. Don’t write Conley off as a bust just yet, this is only his 3rd season, this is the first season he’s started and he’s starting to play very well. The only guy you can write off as bust this early is Greg Oden who can’t stay healthy to save his life. Conley is also turning into a very good three point shooter just watch this kid and you’ll see why the Grizzlies love him.