SALT LAKE CITY — Emmanuel Mudiay swung around in a chair in front of his locker and saw Mike Conley standing a few feet from him.
“Man, that No. 10 was hoopin’,” Mudiay called to Conley. “No. 10 was hoopin’.”
Conley, the No. 10 in question, started to laugh as he looked over at his teammate.
Conley, after a week of struggling with his shot and at times being out of sorts in the Jazz offense, looked like himself again. He scored 29 points, hit five threes and took over the game in the second half.
There was never a doubt to anyone within the Utah organization that Conley would click with the Jazz. That was true during last season’s trade deadline when they tried to get him from Memphis, that was true in the summer when they finally completed the trade, and that was true even after Conley had shot 0-for-7 in Utah’s win over Phoenix.
So it might be a stretch to say there was some relief following Conley’s big night. But, at the same time, there seemed to be just that. If only because he, his teammates, his coaches, and his new fans, wanted him to have that type of performance so badly.
“I think we all felt it,” Donovan Mitchell said. “We all felt his excitement. Mike’s a pretty calm guy and he was yelling and screaming. Once we saw that, we were feeding off that, too.”
So what changed for Conley?
“Everything,” Conley said. “I did everything different.”
As players walked off the court following Wednesday’s shootaround, Conley kept on putting up shot after shot to the point where that his team "had to try and pull me off the court.”
Mountain time. “Did everything but gave up” Selah pic.twitter.com/F2DOlxQ3Oq— Mike Conley (@MCONLEY10) October 31, 2019
He wanted to get things right — pure and simple. He was done putting up single-digit shooting numbers and not playing up to his capabilities. He was determined to find his rhythm again. But then Jazz coach Quin Snyder pulled him aside and said, “Hey man, just be you.”
In the second half on Wednesday, Conley was himself. He scored 18 points in the third quarter alone as he showed off all the ways he can score. He hit threes, he hit floaters, he broke down a defender for a layup.
He played like he always has.
“I think it’s unique for Conley because he was in one place for so long,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before the game. “I mean, he drove to the arena the same way, he had probably all his rituals. Everything has been uprooted. Now everything’s new for him. He’s playing, as I say, home-road games for a while. Eventually, Utah will become home, and he’ll be back to being Mike Conley.”
The performance wasn’t a surprise to his teammates or to his opponents. Rivers knew it was going to come eventually and Rudy Gobert said that he “could feel that (Wednesday) was gonna be a good night.”
“That's who he is,” Snyder said. “So I don't want to make too big a deal of it, but it's good. It's good for him to play well. When players play well, usually the team plays well. I thought he mixed it up too. He took his shot, got to the rim, got some easy stuff. Good all the way around.”
As Mudiay finished getting ready to leave the locker room, he said one last thing to Conley.
“That's the Mike that I've known for a while,” Mudiay said.