SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz won’t have their starting point guard when they start the playoffs on Monday.
Mike Conley left the bubble in Orlando Sunday morning to return to Columbus, Ohio, for the birth of his son, the Jazz announced.
That means, at a minimum, Conley will miss the first two games of the Jazz-Nuggets playoff series. Players who leave the bubble for an excused absence — and return daily negative tests — only have to quarantine for four days upon returning to Orlando.
So if Conley does return to Orlando by Monday, he may be able to play in Friday’s Game 3.
This was something the Jazz had been expecting. Before ever arriving in the bubble, Conley made it clear he intended to return home to be with his wife Mary for the birth of the couple's third child who was due on Aug. 27. It was always a possibility, if not a probability, that he would miss playoff time.
“We have an understanding that I’ll be able to see her and I’ll be able to, at some point, hopefully be able to be back for the baby and all that stuff,” Conley said in June. “So as long as all that was answered, and the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted on that situation, I was more and more comfortable going, knowing that I’d be able to be back with them at some point.”
And his decision to leave was met with nothing but congratulations on Sunday.
“Congrats to Mike,” Jordan Clarkson said. “Being a father's more important than all of this and I'm happy for him and happy he's getting to experience this, another one and it's a blessing.”
The Jazz won’t be pressuring Conley to get back to Orlando quickly either. Jazz coach Quin Snyder said earlier this summer that he would encourage the point guard to take as much time as he needs to be with his family.
That was echoed by Conley’s teammates Sunday.
“Whenever Mary and Mike feel comfortable that it's the right time for him to come back, we'll obviously bring him in with open arms,” said Joe Ingles said, whose wife Renae is also pregnant. “But until then, it's one of those things, it's much bigger than basketball. Him being there with his family and Mary is priority No. 1 right now and, like I said, we 100% support that.”
On the court, though, it will make things difficult for the Jazz. Conley has been one of Utah’s best players in the restart averaging 19.8 points and 5.6 assists in the five full games he's played in Orlando. With an already thinning bench, the Jazz may struggle to make up that production.
The Jazz brought in Bojan Bogdanovic and Conley to see if the team could make the next step this year — they now won’t have either when the playoffs begin.
“We got to have the next man up type thing,” said Clarkson, who started alongside Donovan Mitchel when Conley sat out in Utah’s final seeding game. “Mike is definitely a loss for us right now for whatever time being it is that he's gone. But just next man up. That's it. Can't think about nothing else. If we still take it day-to-day, come in here and put the effort out, we are going to get a good result.”