It didn’t take long for Mike Conley to make up his mind regarding his future.
Technically a free agent this past summer, Conley knew there was only one organization he wanted to play for—the same one refers to as “family.”
“Going through the free agency process, I didn’t really think I was going to be a true free agent,” Conley said. “This is a special organization from top to bottom, and I knew I wouldn’t find something like it anywhere else.”
After resigning with the Jazz, there’s only one thing left for Conley and the team to do: Bring home a championship.
He believes that Utah has everything in place to be special this upcoming season and for years to come.
The Jazz have added veterans Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside, and Eric Paschall, all while finding a diamond-in-the-rough with rookie Jared Butler. Combine that with the return of all-stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell and premier role players like Jordan Clarkson, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, and Bojan Bogdanovic, and this squad is deeper and more versatile than ever before.
But according to Conley, it’s the struggles the Jazz have been through as to why they’re primed to win a title. After years of heartbreak in the playoffs, this is a unit that has stuck together and grown closer.
“We know we’ve come up short the past couple of seasons. … But rather than running from it, we’re learning to embrace it,” Conley said. “We have a certain type of chemistry and knowledge within this organization and this team that should help us achieve our goals.”
But as the adage goes, “if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Utah will have that opportunity tonight.
In their final preseason game of the year, the Jazz will be hosting the reigning champion, Milwaukee Bucks, at Vivint Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Final preseason game before the real thing
: 7 PM MT
: @ZoneSportsNet #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/COatYnxj8T
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) October 13, 2021
“To win a championship here, sticking it out through the tough times to take the long road where it’s never been done, that’s special,” Conley said. “That was a major factor in me returning to the team.”
While a lot of stock typically isn’t put into preseason games, let alone the final one before the regular season starts, this will be a good measuring stick for both teams. They’re essentially healthy and their stars are expected to play, including two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday of the Bucks.
Despite lining up against the defending champs tonight, there’s no added pressure for this Jazz team that finished with the Western Conference’s best record last year. They know that they too are being hunted on the court, and it’s a role they’re learning to accept.
“We aren’t catching any teams by surprise anymore,” Mitchell said. “We have to come out with fire because people are now coming for us. We aren’t sneaking up on teams. … This is who we are now, and we have to learn to embrace that role.”
*Elijah Hughes: PROBABLE — left leg soreness
*Jared Butler: QUESTIONABLE — non-COVID illness
*Rudy Gay: OUT — right heel surgery
*Trent Forrest: OUT — concussion protocol
*Joe Ingles: OUT — rest
*Donte DiVincenzo: OUT — left ankle reconstruction surgery
*Semi Ojeleye: OUT — left calf strain
*Bobby Portis: OUT — left hamstring strain
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Location: Vivint Arena / Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T SportsNet / NBATV
Radio: 1280 The Zone