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Utah Jazz’s Mike Conley is ready to deliver a Memphis throwback — maybe two

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) drives inside with the ball, as Brooklyn Nets guard Garrett Temple (17) defends, in NBA basketball action between the Utah Jazz and the Brooklyn Nets in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019.

As various Utah Jazz players have been asked in their media sessions about how the team can best adapt to the absence of Bojan Bogdanovic, almost every one of them has invoked the name of Mike Conley.

“Since he’s come back, there’s more of a comfort level. And that’s allowed him to be more instinctive — that’s what we want from him,” coach Quin Snyder said. “He can’t take a bad shot, as far as I’m concerned, and I want him to play like that.”

“I’m really excited for Mike to have the ball more and be able to do what he’s done his whole career,” Joe Ingles said.

The implication at practically every turn has been that the Conley we see in Orlando might resemble the one we used to see in Memphis.

The point guard himself has intimated as much.

“I understand my situation, and really, I’m excited for it. I could get the opportunity to just play a role that I haven’t had to play so far this year,” Conley said.

And then, on Monday, he offered news of a definitive Memphis throwback.

Asked if he had decided on what message he will wear on his jersey, and how he arrived at that choice, Conley gave a tip of the cap to his old 901 area code.

“I’m going to wear ‘I Am a Man’ on the back of my jersey. It was something that I consulted with my family with, and something that we thought was powerful, especially being where that all came from was actually in Memphis, when the sanitation workers went on strike,” he explained in a Zoom call. “I actually got to visit the Civil Rights Museum a few times down there, so that meant a lot to me to be able to put that on the back of my jersey and just represent all those behind me.”

The Jazz have acknowledged all season long that the point guard’s decline in production from the prolific numbers he put up with the “Grit ‘N’ Grind” Grizzlies had as much to do with the change in scheme, adjusting to a new team, and having a different role as a result of playing with more offensively-inclined teammates as anything.

Coming into the bubble, I had no questions. I had no questions about lingo, language, plays, my role, anything. I kind of came in with a clear picture of what to expect and what I’m supposed to be doing for this team.”

Mike Conley

Backup point guard Emmanuel Mudiay suggested Monday that “Memphis Mike” never really went away, the ex-Grizzlies star just had to hibernate for awhile.

And now it’s time for him to wake up.

“Mike never lost it, in my opinion,” Mudiay said. “… Obviously, with Bojan not being here, we’re going to need him to be a little bit more aggressive, but I think he’s ready for it. And he’s been looking good in practice. So I don’t think it’ll be too much of an adjustment for him. I think it’s just getting back to what he knows.”

When queried as to what his comfort level with the Jazz is now vs. at the start of the season, the point guard said he arrived in Orlando fully primed on what he can do, and on what he needs to do.

“Honestly, it feels like I’ve played a full season under coach and with the guys, [who] I’ve got a chance to build chemistry with now,” Conley said. “So coming into the bubble, I had no questions. I had no questions about lingo, language, plays, my role, anything. I kind of came in with a clear picture of what to expect and what I’m supposed to be doing for this team. I’m really just excited right now, really excited to go out play, and play with a clear mind and show people what I can do.”

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