Mike Conley’s MRI reveals ‘mild right hamstring strain,’ he’ll be re-evaluated before second-round Game 1

Utah Jazz point guard avoids major injury, but is experiencing the same issue that caused him to miss 21 games during the regular season.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) scores as the Utah Jazz host the Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 24, 2021.

It’s been on the minds of Utah Jazz fans since, oh, roughly the 8:58 mark in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s closeout Game 5 against the Grizzlies.

What’s Mike Conley’s injury situation?

At halftime, it was announced that Conley would sit out the rest of the game with right hamstring soreness. Postgame, Conley himself discussed feeling “a little tug” near the end of the first quarter, the process of the pain worsening, and the decision to pull the plug for the night.

On Thursday morning, Conley underwent an MRI to determine the significance of the injury. And on Thursday evening, the Jazz spilled the beans: The exam revealed a mild right hamstring strain, and the veteran point guard will be re-evaluated before Game 1 of the team’s second-round series.

Obviously it’s excellent news for Conley and the Jazz that no tear was revealed.

However, the tight playoff timeline going forward might limit his availability, to say nothing of his ability to play at his peak.

Working in Conley’s and the Jazz’s favor is that their second-round opponent has yet to be determined. The Mavericks lead the Clippers 3-2 in their first-round series, with Game 6 coming Friday night at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Should the Clippers prevail — a distinct possibility, considering the road team improbably has won every game in the series thus far — they’d play the decisive Game 7 on Sunday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

So, the very earliest the Jazz will play again is Sunday, which would give them three days off. If Clippers-Mavs go seven, Utah would likely begin its Western Conference semifinal on Tuesday, giving the Jazz five days of rest.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that once the games get going, they’ll be played pretty regularly.

While the NBA doesn’t have specific prescribed start dates for second-round and conference finals series, the NBA Finals schedule is locked in for starting July 8 — exactly five weeks from now. Given that, we can more or less extrapolate how frequently games games from the next two rounds will be played.

The Finals are 35 days away, there are two rounds to play before that, each of which could go a full seven games. So if the NBA must account for the possibility of 14 games in a 35-day span, that’s a game played every 2.5 days.

Thus we know that while there might be the occasional two days off in between games, it’s looking like a lot of play one, off one.

That’s obviously not ideal for a guy battling a sore hamstring.

Still, a potentially encouraging sign is that Conley said this injury “feels less [bad] than the last one,” which kept him out for nine straight games near the end of the regular season.

He made no definitive statements, but nevertheless indicated there was, in his mind, reason for optimism.

“My mindset is, I’m going to be ready to play,” Conley said. “That’s kind of the visual I put in front of myself: ‘I’m going to be ready.’ But at the same time, we’re going to see what happens in the next few days and be smart about how we approach it going into this next series.”