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Mike Conley is one of the more thoughtful and introspective basketball players I’ve ever interviewed, so when I found out he’d sat down with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski for a long-form interview on the latter’s podcast, I had high hopes.
Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed.
Great as the full 37+ minutes of their installment of the Woj Pod were, though, they really did save the best for last.
At the 28:42 mark, Woj brings up the fact that Mike has never made an All-Star Game, and claims that “if you’d had the same exact career in the Eastern Conference, you’d be a six- or seven-time All-Star.” Even though it’s not yet even settled whether there will be an actual All-Star Game this season, voting for starters in a potential game has begun, and so they inevitably began discussing Mike’s prospects. And Mike, to his credit, did not play it cool, did not claim his career still would be complete without going, but rather went all-in on his desire for it to happen, and not only that, but also his desire to bring not one … not two … but three Utah Jazz teammates with him:
“I can’t lie — I still think about it. It’s something that, in my career, I’ve always kind of strived for,” Mike said. “… There’s been years, you look at that  Atlanta Hawks team that had four guys that made it ’cause they all deserved it … maybe that’ll be the case this year with Utah. We have so many good things going here — myself, Donovan, Rudy, JC, [maybe] we all kind of get rewarded for playing as a team, for being one of the better teams out there. Maybe this is the year.”
At the 30:36 mark, Woj brings up the COVID-19-induced drama between Donovan and Rudy, and asked how involved Mike was in trying to resolve it. Did he feel it more appropriate, as a new guy on the team, to keep his distance? Or did he rely on his status as a respected veteran to insinuate himself and try to grease the wheels of reconciliation?
“For a minute, I thought I was brought here for that — just to be that guy that could be kind of the calming presence, could lend some knowledge to both of ’em. And I did that,” Mike said. “I remember sitting there and having conversations with both of ’em, even Ed Davis was involved with it, a bunch of us guys who were vets on the team, and we just told ’em straight up, ‘We are only gonna go as far as you guys take us. You guys are the two best players on our team.’ Just how important they are for each other, and the stuff that they don’t see eye to eye on are not big deals at all.
“… Those guys really started working on that,” Mike continued. “And leading up to the bubble after the whole COVID thing and all that stuff that got out, we were playing video games together, we were doing all these things in the bubble that just really built a steady foundation for those guys. And you can see it right now — they’re talking all the time, they’re on the phone, they’re FaceTiming. They’re tight.”
Jordan Clarkson with a Kobe tribute
Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death, and his ex-Lakers teammate, Jordan Clarkson, was asked after that morning’s shootaround if he had a favorite memory of him.
The one he settled on: Bryant’s final game, when he dropped 60 points on the Utah Jazz.
Later that night, JC had a moment that almost certainly was not an intentional homage, but which nevertheless served as an accidental tribute.
Jordan checked into the game, curled around a screen, took the inbounds pass and fired up a turnaround, fadeaway 3. He had a shot attempt within a few tenths of a second of getting into the game.
It was Mamba Mentality in its purest distillation.
As always, if you’ve got a question you want me to answer — about the Jazz, the NBA, about beat writer life, about music, about whatever randomness — either send me a tweet (@TribJazz) or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Now then, let’s get to the latest batch:
• “Do you think Conley walks after this season? If so, would it be better to let him walk or to trade him before the deadline? P.S., I hope he stays, he is killing it this year!” — @glendersen
First off, do y’all remember that offseason story I did with a hypothetical about how it’d make sense for the Jazz to try to work out an extension with Conley to lower this year’s cap hit and keep him around a few more seasons? Man, I’m smart. (Kidding.) Anyway, I’m guessing that many who were opposed then would not be so now. This one’s gonna be interesting — with the extensions for Rudy and Donovan kicking in, the Jazz are gonna be up against it, salary cap-wise. No idea if Mike is set to leave or not — there’s a lot in play there, including his salary wants, his desire to be closer to home, et cetera. There is risk in keeping him and seeing him walk. But given how well he is playing, and how well the Jazz are playing with him, I think it’d be a massive mistake to ship him out early. This team has a chance to compete. They shouldn’t mess that up.
• “Suppose hypothetically the Utah Jazz could address any 1 issue via trade, at minimal cost, before the trade deadline. What would the Jazz most look for in such a trade?” — Calvan Johnson (via email)
This team not only has pretty good depth, but pretty good depth that’s well-versed in Quin Snyder’s system. So pursuing an upgrade could come down to whether or not someone gets injured and they decide they’re now thin at that spot. In the absence of such a caveat, I suppose I’d say it’d be ideal to have someone who could swing between the 3 and 4 positions, who’s maybe a bit taller and longer than Royce but also maybe a bit more athletic than Georges? Such a player could come in handy for specific defensive matchups down the road.
Introducing … the Weekly Top 5
I’m not listening to enough new music these days to consistently provide you with recommendations, so we’re gonna mine the memory banks while also getting creative about it. And so: the Weekly Top 5. These are inspired by my love of the movie “High Fidelity” and all the random lists that Rob, Barry and Dick came up with. Such lists have become a staple in the Walden household. Let’s kick it off with a nostalgic peek into my god-awful formative music years with … “Top 5 Songs From My Childhood That Kicked Off My Love of Music.” (This is going to be ugly. Don’t judge me too harshly.)
1. “Born to Be My Baby,” Bon Jovi: “New Jersey” was the first cassette tape I ever owned, and this was my favorite track from it. I was hooked from those opening “Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah” group vocals, and sucked in by the protagonists’ fight to make it in spite of a cruel, unfair world.
2. “Straight Up,” Paula Abdul: From the first CD I ever bought with my own money. She was cool, she was hot, and this song — with its funky synth and percussive beat — was just a lot of fun.
3. “Nobody’s Fool,” Cinderella: Much of my musical taste was influenced by my sister Andrea, who’s about 5 years older than me. One day, her best friend Misty came over to our house and said she’d brought “Cinderella” on a VHS tape to watch. I poked my head in the room, expecting a Disney movie. Instead I got one of the most criminally underrated power ballads from one of the most criminally underrated hair-metal bands ever.
4. “Pump Up the Jam,” Technotronic: Not the most sophisticated song in existence, but to this day, I don’t know how you can be in a bad mood if it’s playing. “Get your booty on the floor tonight/Make my day.” Simple enough.
5. “Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N’ Roses: Another Andrea special. It’d be a few years before the GN’R bug really and truly bit me, but even on the first day she popped her “Appetite for Destruction” tape into her boombox, I recognized they were something unique — darker, harder, edgier, nastier than all the other rock bands I was hearing on the radio. That afternoon remains a vivid memory, hearing Slash’s staccato, descending opening notes followed by Axl’s primal yowl, and having an unshakeable feeling that this was so very different.
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