01 March 2010
Mike Conley almost made it through a full season without having his name floated about in trade rumors.
In the final days of February's NBA trade deadline, the Memphis Grizzlies third-year point guard was reportedly being offered from management for salary cap relief and possibly a first-round draft pick with the Grizzlies continuing their backcourt shuffle from Allen Iverson, to OJ Mayo, to Jamaal Tinsley.
Then there is Conley.
The kid is always being talked about around the league, just not in ways he’d hoped.
“My name being thrown around in trade talks is always tough, but that’s something I’ve grown to deal with,” said Conley, who has started 57 games for Memphis and is averaging 10.2 points and 5.2 assists per game.
“That’s part of any professional’s life. I think it’s made me a stronger person and a stronger player. I don’t worry about it nowadays. I’m happy right now.”
So, with Conley content in his role – and some solid numbers to boost his confidence - why all the banter to move the point guard?
For the last two seasons, Memphis was allegedly in talks with the Portland Trail Blazers in a deal that would have sent Travis Outlaw from Portland for Conley. But once this season got underway, and the Grizzlies actually found some winning ways, speculation subsided. That was until the trade deadline arrived.
But Conley has been here before. He knows the drill.
Once again, Mike leaned on those close to him to help pull him through another season of uncertainty.
“The people around you are your support system. Those are the people you can turn to, regardless what everyone else is saying. You can always talk to them and tell them how you feel. Those people keep you grounded when you are doing well, and they keep you grounded when you are doing badly. That’s the most important thing.”
The fourth overall pick in 2007, Conley has two more years left on his contract in Memphis. And while this offseason will likely hold yet more trade rumors for the former Ohio State Buckeye, the Grizzlies – believe it or not – still have high hopes of making the final playoff spot this season.
After finishing 24-58 last season, this year (30-29) could already be deemed a success.
But the playoffs?
“Winning is the cure. Winning is the cure for everything,” Conley explained.
“The guys in this locker room can agree, if you score two points and we win the game, it’s like you scored 50 points. Everyone feels good about themselves individually, as well as the team. It doesn’t matter how many points you might score. If we’re winning games, we are all the same. Guys know they are accountable. We are accountable for our own mistakes and what we know what we have to do. Once we stopped pointing fingers and stopped blaming one another, guys starting respecting one another. Guys started playing for one another.
“Other teams and even refs are starting to respect us more. Once you get that, that’s part of elevating your team to another level.”
It’s been a full month since Memphis has won on their home floor. That’s six-straight games they’ve dropped, with the Portland Trail Blazers in town Monday night. But despite the struggles at FedEx Forum, Conley stays optimistic that things will turnaround for the Grizzlies – both now and later.
“We’ve grown. We’re going to keep moving on,” Conley added. “I’m looking forward to what is to come for us.”
But will Conley be around to see it all unfold?