DALLAS — No one, it seems, is more impressed with Mike Conley’s body of work this season than Zach Randolph.
The Memphis Grizzlies power forward, in fact, has been complimentary of Conley’s display since the early stages of the season.
Tuesday night was no exception.
Following the shorthanded Grizzlies’ decisive 109-90 win against the Dallas Mavericks in American Airlines Center in which the team was without Conley, Randolph hinted that he anticipates the Grizzlies’ starting point guard to achieve a milestone he’s been seeking for some time.
“It’s big when you can play like that without your All-Star point guard,” Randolph told reporters after posting a game-high 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting and 10 rebounds against Dallas.
While Randolph doesn’t shy away from the notion that he would like to see Conley, his teammate of six years, earn his first All-Star appearance of his career, the seven-year veteran won’t know for certain until Thursday when the East and West reserves are announced.
Just as it has been in recent years, making the All-Star team undoubtedly will be monumental for Conley, in large part because the Western Conference is loaded with a slew of All-Star-caliber point guards such as Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, among others — all of whom have played in the NBA’s annual midseason showcase.
The 64th annual All-Star Game is February 15 in Madison Square Garden.
While many media pundits believed Conley should have been named to the All-Star team last year, the 27-year-old Fayetteville, Arkansas native certainly has made a strong case to earn a spot for the West this season.
At 33-12, the Grizzlies currently own the NBA’s third-best record and are second in the Western Conference standings behind Golden State. Add to the fact that Conley, Memphis’ second-leading scorer, has been as assertive on both ends of the floor as he’s ever been since he entered the NBA ranks, and it’s no wonder many believe this year could very well be his to crash the All-Star party along with fellow Grizzlies teammate Marc Gasol.
A 7-foot-1 Spaniard, Gasol will be making his second All-Star appearance and his first as a starter.
“You know, it’ll be nice if it happens,” said Randolph, when asked if making his third All-Star appearance was one of his personal goals in this, his 13th season. “I said the other day in Memphis I prefer it be Mike Conley. He deserves it. You know, I’ve been there before. So it’ll be nice if someone else from our team makes it and hopefully it’s him.”
According to a four-panel of CBSSports.com writers who cover the NBA, neither listed Conley as an All-Star reserve in a story that was released Wednesday afternoon. During a preseason interview with MemphiSport, however, Conley reiterated that making his first All-Star appearance was something about which he would strive for this year and that being left off the roster “would suck.”
“Obviously, I want to make my first All-Star appearance,” Conley said.
However, whether the former Ohio State star will be shown some love Valentine’s Day weekend in the Big Apple as a member of the West roster remains a mystery.
At least until sometime Thursday.
“It’ll be nice,” Randolph said of Conley being christen an All-Star reserve. “It’s a lot of politics in the All-Star Game. But I’m not going to lose any sleep (if I don’t make it). Like I said, I want the young fella to get in there.”
Still, regardless of how things stack up when the All-Star reserves are announced, Randolph said nothing overshadows the bigger aspirations for a team that figures to be a legitimate threat to make its first NBA Finals appearances this year.
“Right now, we’re focusing on winning and that’s our big picture right now…especially mine,” Randolph said. “We’re playing good. Our team is playing good. Our bench is playing good. So that’s our main focus right now.”
Something even the team’s starting point guard would agree with as the season progresses.
All-Star appearance or not.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to email@example.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.