SALT LAKE CITY — When Donovan Mitchell was asked what it was like to have Mike Conley back on the court, he answered by asking his own question: "Did you see the start of the game?"
Conley didn't need any time to find a rhythm in his return to the lineup after missing six games. Scratch that — he needed 45 seconds. On the Jazz's second possession, he hit a three. On their third, he pulled up for two.
Just like that, Conley was back.
In the first five minutes of the game, Conley had scored 7 points and was one of the few Jazz players that looked comfortable against the Los Angeles Clippers aggressive defense.
"It was great to finally get to be let off the leash, I like to say," Conley said. "Been waiting for a while to get out there and play. I've been feeling good for a while, so I'm just really happy to be back."
Conley finished with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting in the 25 minutes he was restricted to as he eased his way back into playing after having a tight right hamstring. And those early shots were exactly what Jazz coach Quin Snyder wanted to see.
"One of the things that he's been great about is being aggressive," Snyder said. "And I think he's so aware and such a great leader that there's times when he's trying to get other people involved when we want him to get himself involved. And if the game presents itself that way and those shots are there, those are shots we want to want him to take."
Outside of just his scoring, Mitchell said the Jazz had missed his "presence" on the court. Conley has often brought a calming effect to lineups and that leadership can help change games. His early scoring at least helped the Jazz stay somewhat connected early with the Clippers in the 116-112 loss.
"Obviously he was on a little bit of a restriction tonight, but we missed his presence for sure," Mitchell said. "We missed his game, his play."
And that play has earned Conley some All-Star consideration talk leading into next week when reserves are announced. That's something that Mitchell said he absolutely deserved — and something that Conley stated would be special to him.
Despite being among the top guards in the league for over a decade, Conley has never made an All-Star Game with some considering him to be among the best players ever to never earn to be named an All-Star. That's not exactly the type of list Conley wants to headline.
"That would mean the world to me. It would say a lot about me as a person after the year I had last year to come back and compete at the level I've competed at. I do feel like I've played well enough to be in that conversation, and, quite frankly, be one of those reserves.
"I think that this year everything is falling into place where we have the best record and we got a coach coaching the West team, so it's all fallen in line. So if it's not gonna happen this year, man, it's gonna be tough."
Conley at least has his All-Star teammate's vote.
"I'm hoping he is. I'm praying he is and he deserves it," Mitchell said. "But it's definitely good to have him back out there and competing."