Zach Randolph believes Mike Conley’s day will eventually come.
Never mind that his chances were better than ever this year.
“He’s going to get there,” the Memphis Grizzlies power forward said after Wednesday’s shootaround when asked his reactions to Conley being snubbed as an All-Star for the West squad. “You know, a lot of players were snubbed. But Mike is going to get there. He’s getting better.”
The longest-tenured Grizzly, Conley has made considerable strides at the point guard position since he entered the NBA seven seasons ago, particularly in a season in which Memphis has battled an assortment of injuries to several marquee players. Even before he sustained an ankle injury last Friday at Minnesota, Conley played with much poise and resilience in helping Memphis re-emerge as a playoff contender.
Currently, Conley is Memphis’ leading scorer at 18 points and 6.3 assists per game for a Grizzlies team that is 25-18 with him in the lineup. And, although the possibility exists that he could be sidelined at least through Memphis’ weekend road games at Atlanta and Cleveland, the Grizzlies appear to be a solid shape heading into next week’s All-Star break, largely because the 26-year-old Conley has played arguably the best basketball of his career.
Conley wasn’t available to the media after shootaround in preparation for Memphis’ game Wednesday night at 7 CST against the Dallas Mavericks in FedExForum, although team officials said he was in the facility and receiving treatment for his injured ankle. Having won 11 of their last 13, the Grizzlies are one game back of Dallas for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Among Conley’s notable highlights was his 27 point, 10 assists outburst at upstart Sacramento on January 29, an inspiring performance that prompted various media pundits to debate whether he is worthy of making his All-Star debut. However, even during a season in which Conley is producing All-Star-caliber numbers, the former Ohio State star was left off the roster when the reserves were announced last week.
The 63rd All-Star Game is Feb. 16 at New Orleans Arena.
Four other point guards were named All-Star reserves ahead of Conley, including Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul, who has missed the past 16 games with a separated right shoulder he injured in a Jan. 3 game at Dallas. Portland’s Damian Lillard was named one of seven reserves for the West squad (his first All-Star selection), despite being outplayed by Conley in Memphis’ resounding 99-81 win at the Trial Blazers during the Grizzlies’ recent three-game road trip. San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Golden State Stephen Curry were also named to the West roster.
“It happens,” Grizz center Marc Gasol, a 2011 All-Star, said of Conley being left off this year’s All-Star team. “It happens every year that a lot of players who should of made the All-Star team don’t make it. But at the end day, we have bigger goals and I’m sure Mike knows that. And hopefully that’s the NBA’s Finals.”
Roughly one month into the season, the Grizzlies looked nothing like a team that was destined to secure a playoff for a fourth consecutive year, in large part because of the injuries to reserve shooting guard Quincy Pondexter and Gasol coupled with the inconsistent play of their bench.
Credit Conley for Memphis’ resurgence as the All-Star break looms.
A once unproven player who garnered much criticism for his inconsistency and lethargic play in the pick and roll offense in the early stages of his career, Conley has steadfastly silence his critics in recent years, demonstrating among other things that he’s as good as advertised for a lottery player who was selected with the fourth overall pick by Memphis in 2007.
Grizz coach Dave Joerger on Wednesday didn’t shy away from the notion that his starting point was an All-Star snub.
“Mike Conley has been absolutely tremendous for us,” Joerger said. “He would go stretches where he would 44 assists through four games and three turnovers and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I want you to have the ball the whole time.’ The West has a lot of guards, a lot of good guards. He’s valuable and if it’s an All-Star Game where guys are valuable, I think he gets in and I feel he should have been an All-Star.”
At this stage in his career, it’s not a matter of if Conley will make his All-Star debut, but rather a matter of when.
“He’s going to be an All-Star,” Randolph, a two-time All-Star, said. “He has an All-Star mind.
Which, of course, is among the reasons his day will eventually come.