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'I'm just worried about the Jazz': Conley addresses most recent batch of trade rumors


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SALT LAKE CITY — Mike Conley is getting used to hearing his name in trade talks. He heard the rumblings during his final season with the Memphis Grizzlies, and last summer was told that he was oh so close to being a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.

It's more of the same as the clock ticks toward the trade deadline on Feb. 9. Conley has been mentioned by most of the more noteworthy NBA newsbreakers.

Marc Stein, previously of ESPN and The New York Times, reported the Clippers "have trade interest in Utah's Mike Conley Jr. amid a rising belief leaguewide that the Jazz — who have tumbled to No. 9 in the West at 22-24 after their great start — could become a much-needed seller at this deadline."

Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer followed up that report by tweeting: "The Clippers' Mike Conley interest dates back to at least this summer, when Los Angeles was weighing point guard options before John Wall headed to Staples Center after securing his buyout from the Rockets."

Finally, The Athletic's Shams Charania added a new team to the mix, reporting the Minnesota Timberwolves (as well as the Clippers) have expressed interest in the Jazz point guard.

So regardless, it appears that teams — and specifically the Clippers — have made it known Conley is wanted. The veteran guard has put up 10.5 points and 7.5 assists this season; and in his last four games, he's averaging 14.8 points on 46% 3-point shooting, which included a 17-point, nine assist night on Wednesday against the team he has been most often linked to.

"The last few games have been pretty, pretty good for me," Conley said. "So it's good to just get a good rhythm feeling healthy, and the knee took a little longer. Even when I was back, it was still a little bit slow, but now I feel explosive — back to doing things I'm normally doing."

Was the performance on Wednesday an audition of sorts for a potential new team? If it was, Conley sure didn't know about it.

"Thankfully, I've had experience with it. I can't control it," said Conley of the trade talk. "I just go out there and play basketball and work for the team. Just be the team guy I've been. I'm not worried about it. If it happens, it happens; if it doesn't, it doesn't."

That's just what happened over the summer; a deal was close between the Clippers and the Jazz that would have sent Conley to the West Coast. After the talks died and LA signed Wall instead, Conley was told how close he was to being a Clippers player.

His response? Shrug.

"I was like, OK, it didn't happen, so I just kept going on with my summer," Conley said.

Wall has averaged 11.7 points, 2.8 assists and shot 40% from the field and 30% from the 3-point line with the Clippers. He's currently sidelined with an abdominal injury. Conley would no doubt be an upgrade — a potential deal would have Robert Covington or Reggie Jackson coming back with a mix of other salary filler (Wall, Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr., Amir Coffey).

But would the Jazz be interested in such a move? Maybe.

Conley is on the books for next season, as well, and is probably overpaid at this point in his career (but it's not egregious). If the Jazz want to save some money or spend it elsewhere during the offseason, it makes sense to move him now.

But if that is the type of return Utah can expect in a Conley deal, there is a case to be made for just keeping him. The Jazz are 19-17 when he plays and are really one hot stretch away from challenging for home court advantage in the playoffs. The Jazz would need Conley to make such a push.

"Mike is one where he's so unselfish and thinks pass first," Jazz coach Will Hardy said. "There aren't that many pass first point guards in the NBA anymore. And I think that's one of the luxuries we have as a staff is we have one of them. Mike is such a good decision maker."

Would guys like Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler, who have both blossomed this season into potential building blocks for a title team, still be good without Conley? Of course, but there's no denying he's helped them and everyone else reach the current level.

"He's really fun to play with. He's so smart," Kessler said. "Just like knowing when to do different stuff on screens, knowing when to flip it, knowing when to pass — his passes are unbelievable. … And as a student of the game, I'm trying to absorb as much information as I can from him."

How long will he have to do that? A couple days, a couple weeks, a couple years? Conley doesn't even know, but until he gets the call, he'll keep doing what he's always done.

"These guys know I'm 10 toes down," Conley said. "I'm just worried about the Jazz."

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