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Mike Conley ‘Optimistic’ NBA Will Return This Summer

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After his championship performance in the NBA HORSE Challenge, Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley spoke for the first time publically about his life during the coronavirus outbreak. Conley spoke on his participation in the tournament, the feud between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, and his optimism the NBA will return to finish its season this summer.

Broadcast over two nights, Conley defeated WNBA Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings, NBA legend Chauncey Billups, and current Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine to earn the title.

Conley, whose game is ambidextrous by nature knew he had a few tricks up his sleeve that would give him an advantage in the tournament.

“I play HORSE every day after every workout Conley said, “I play, during the summer when there isn’t any social distancing. I have a whole crew of people in the gym with me we will run two or three games right after we get done working out and we get really creative. I saved a lot of that, I didn’t show too much, but it’s a fun game to just let loose.”

Conley, who shoots left-handed, considers his right hand his dominant hand in most other aspects of his. When a competitor would get close, Conley knew he could turn to his off-hand to bail him out of a tight situation. 

I already had five or six go-to shots and I knew that probably nobody is going to be able to use their off-hand like I would,” Conley joked, “So I just used that to my advantage at any point I felt like I was getting pressured or pushed, I would just go to my right hand and shoot a three and feel comfortable again.” 

Conley knocked off LaVine HO to HORSE to claim the title.

Working From Home

Like most Americans having to work from home, the Jazz have relied on Zoom and FaceTime to conduct team meetings. Conley said the team has been conducting weekly meetings, hosted by coach Quin Snyder to provide updates on the goals of the organization.

We actually just had a meeting earlier today where we got to talk to each other,” Conley said of his teammates, “Coach gets to give us his spiel on different things he wants us to be doing or not doing whatever it may be. It’s been cool to just be able to see those guys on a weekly basis. We’ve had fun little dribbling challenges that one of the coaches started, we’ll crown a winner, stuff like that.”

The Jazz guard was able to show off his impressive home gym during the HORSE tournament, something he recognizes not every NBA is lucky enough to have in their backyard.

I can only imagine how tough it is to not have touched the ball or shot a ball over the last month or so. We’re so used to being in a regiment or a routine and that gets broken up, it can really affect guys in different ways.” Conley said, “I am lucky and thankful to have a gym at my disposal right now and just being in there and trying to stay in shape and in rhythm as much as possible.

When the team isn’t conducting video meetings, the players are still finding ways to connect.

“I’ve been playing Call of Duty with Royce [O’Neale] and Donovan [Mitchell] and those guys,” Conley shared, “Playing Monopoly with Ed Davis, trying to get Joe Ingles involved, just normal things.”

Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell Feud

One of the most talked-about issues to emerge during the pandemic has been the feud between Jazz All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell has reportedly been frustrated with Gobert’s approach to the coronavirus in light of the teammates testing positive for the virus. Conley insisted that locker room feuds are nothing new in the NBA.

Nobody really has a perfect relationship, teammates aside, or whatever you’re in, some of the best players in the world, in our game ever have disagreed on things or had arguments or even fought in practice, whatever it may be, and have gone on to win championships and be successful and be brothers for life,” Conley said.

“Between Donovan and Rudy, if they feel certain ways about each other — I honestly don’t think that’s the case at all — they’re grown men and they handle it, they compete and they try to win, you would never notice on our end. So I feel comfortable knowing that we have two pros who go out there and work every day and care about the team and do whatever they’ve got to do to win.

Both Mitchell and Gobert have acknowledged the issue between one another and have committed to moving forward as teammates.

On Returning This Season

Despite conflicting reports about the future of the professional sports, Conley feels optimistic that the NBA will return to the floor this summer.

It makes sense that a plan is slowly coming in place that we are headed in the right direction,” Conley said, “Hopefully the virus itself starts to flatten a little bit more and more each day and gives us some better indication on when we possibly would have the green light to being in the gym together.” 

While some players have expressed concerns regarding playing in front of an empty stadium, Conley just wants to return the floor, whatever that may look like.

I think we all just want to play at the end of the day,” Conley said, “Obviously we’d love to have our arenas packed full of fans, especially in a great home court situation like we have in Salt Lake.”

“I think getting a month away from the game and not knowing if you’re going to have it again gives you a perspective of how much you love it and how much you just want to be out there and competing regardless of the situation.

New Baby On The Way

In addition to the radical changes Conley has faced since the NBA was sidelined, the family announced they were expecting a new addition to the family this season.

On Easter, Mary Peluso, Conley’s wife announced she was pregnant with the couple’s third child, due sometime this summer.

Though the Conley’s hadn’t announced the pregnancy when Gobert tested positive for the virus on March 11, the Jazz guard said his attention instantly turned towards the safety of his wife.

“That was kind of my first priority and my first worry at the time,” Conley said, “When it was first coming out, there wasn’t a lot of research or a lot of cases documented of what happens with pregnant women or children when they’re born.”

Conley says despite the scare, Peluso has had an ideal pregnancy so far.

“My wife has been feeling great and no issues,” Conley said, “Just trying to make sure that she’s safe and my family is safe right now and going forward the hope is there’s no complications.”

Despite assuming extra responsibilities with a pregnant wife and two toddlers in the house, Conley said he and his teammates haven’t taken their eye off of the ultimate prize.

“All of us are just staying as optimistic as possible,” Conley said, “Nobody is throwing in the towel, or going on vacation thinking this is it and we’re through playing, and we’ll play again next season. We’re still locked in thinking this season will continue.”

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