Mike Conley left the Orlando bubble on Sunday morning to return to Columbus, Ohio, for the birth of his son, just ahead of the Utah Jazz’s first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets.
The first-year Jazz point guard told media back in early July that his wife, Mary, was due to give birth to their third child on or around Aug. 27, and that participating in the NBA restart was a difficult choice as a result. He made it clear back then that he had the support of the organization in leaving the team to go be with his wife and child.
“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. “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.”
The Ohio State product is averaging 14.4 points, 4.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game for the Jazz this year, while shooting 37.5% from deep. He had been playing especially well in the bubble — averaging 18.0 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds — and has been thought to be a key for the Jazz’s hopes against the Nuggets.
“Mike is definitely a loss for whatever time he’s gone. But it’s next man up. That’s it,” guard Jordan Clarkson said after Sunday’s practice. “Congrats to Mike — being a father is more important than all of this. I’m happy he’s getting to experience this.”
Forward Joe Ingles also made it clear that his teammates have absolutely zero problems with him leaving.
“First and foremost, obviously, our whole organization and team and players and coaching staff and everyone that’s here completely supports his decision to go and be with his wife and new baby and the family,” he said. “On one side of it, you’re really happy for him because he’s had another kid, him and his family are growing, and obviously, from our point of view, we 100% support him going to see his family and be with his family. But, yeah, obviously, on the flip side of that, he’s a big part of our team. So 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.”
Coach Quin Snyder spoke back in July about the possibility of Conley leaving the bubble for his child’s birth, and how supportive he was of it, even with all the subsequent uncertainty it would create.
“Let me say, first of all, that I hope we’re without him for as long as he needs to be [gone] to prioritize something that is a gift,” Snyder said then. “I’m glad he’s he’s gonna be there. I don’t think it’s even a hope to be there — I think he needs to be there, and he knows that, and he agrees.”
Other NBA players who have left the bubble campus, provided documentation on their whereabouts, and undergone daily testing for COVID-19 typically have been able to return to action following a four-day quarantine. That means Conley will miss a minimum of two games, and potentially longer depending on how much time he spends in Ohio with his family.