Mike Conley, ruled out of Utah Jazz’s Game 5, says he had a setback earlier in the series, but is hopeful to play soon

A right hamstring strain has kept the All-Star point guard out of entire Western Conference semifinal series thus far, but he says a return against the Clippers “is possible.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) takes some shots, during the pre-game warm-up, before game one in the NBA playoff series between the Utah Jazz and the LA Clippers, at Vivint Arena, on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.

Utah Jazz point guard was Mike Conley officially ruled on Wednesday morning out of the team’s Game 5 matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers, then disclosed to the media shortly afterward that he’d suffered “a small setback” in his rehab from his right hamstring strain.

The All-Star point guard said the injury was indeed initially a “mild” one, as the team has termed it in its daily injury reports, and that he had been prepping to play in Game 3 of the series, that he re-injured it the day of Game 2, and has been fighting an uphill battle to return ever since.

“This is why it’s been extended a bit longer than I know we all would like. Obviously, if I could play, I would — there’s no question about that,” Conley said. “But the progress we’re making now is really good. It’s just a little delayed.”

Conley suffered a right hamstring strain in the first quarter of the Jazz’s closeout victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. He was ruled out from a return at halftime of that game, and has not played since. He has been officially “questionable” to play on the team’s injury report ahead of each game thus far against the Clippers, but has subsequently been ruled out in the hours before each game.

On Wednesday, Conley expressed disappointment and anger with the injury, but also some hopefulness that he might yet be able to take the court at some point against the Clippers, even though he acknowledged that it will be at less than 100%.

“It’s very, very frustrating. Very frustrating. I worked so hard, especially in the last couple of months, solely on taking care of my body and hamstring, and for it to happen in a situation that didn’t make sense, it was very frustrating,” Conley said. “… Obviously, to be sitting here right now, still not playing, I’m probably the most frustrated person that you’ll run into.

“… The way things have been progressing, and obviously with the series as close as it is and as tight as it is, I think that [a return] this series is possible,” added.

He noted that he’s had many injuries before in his career, and that he’s not averse to playing through them when possible. But given the fickle nature of this particular one, he said that he and the Jazz have had to weigh the impact he could have now against what he could potentially contribute later, if the team should advance.

The Western Conference semifinal series against Los Angeles is tied 2-2 going into Wednesday’s matchup, in spite of Conley’s absence.

He said that he has been undergoing treatment daily, and that the team’s medical staff has been assessing his availability on a day-by-day basis. However, while he feels as though a return could happen soon, he also said there remains lingering uncertainty about it.

“With hamstrings or anything muscular, they’re weird. They’re very weird. And that means I’ll go a couple of days with not doing anything just to let everything calm down, and then as soon as you start to run, something happens or pops up,” Conley said. “You just kind of really, honestly have to wake up in the morning and hope that it’s gone at this point, or hope that it’s at a reasonable level to play.”

Conley did say he doesn’t believe his hamstring problems are chronic at this point, though he conceded he’d never really had issues with them before these past two seasons with the Jazz.

Asked if his latest injury was perhaps a manifestation of him coming back from his original hamstring injury this season too soon, he admitted, “the time I probably needed to really address it would have been a lot longer, even though I felt good during those times. … Obviously, in the NBA, we don’t have that kind of that kind of time during the season. So I think, you know, we’ve done the best that we can as far as managing it and allowing me to play and continue to stay in shape.”

Given the time constraints the Jazz are facing, especially with an every-other-day series going on, Conley said his hamstring probably won’t fully be right until the offseason, when he’ll have an extended period to let it heal.

In the meantime, though, he added, with the Jazz’s postseason fate hanging in the balance, that luxury doesn’t exist in this moment.

“Time isn’t on our side for that,” he said.