SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Mike Conley had offers to go elsewhere. But he wanted to run it back, and the Jazz are more than happy to have him back.
“I knew how the Jazz felt, how badly they wanted to keep this team together,” said Conley, who signed a 3-year, $68-million dollar free agent deal last week. “There’s a comfort zone here. It’s somewhere where I feel really comfortable. I feel like I can continue to grow and continue to help this team get to the next level.”
While Conley did get texts from players from around the league, it was the pressure from his Jazz teammates that seemed to influence his decision.
“Joe Ingles was hitting me up from Tokyo,” Conley said. “He was almost threatening me, and I was a little worried for my life there. Obviously Royce, Don and JC, everybody, they definitely were in my corner and pulling me back to Utah.”
Conley is coming off one the best seasons of his 14-year NBA career. He averaged 16.2 points, 6.0 assists, and shot a career-best 41.2 percent from three-point range.
Despite earning the top seed in the Western Conference with the NBA’s best overall record last season, the Jazz needed to get better.
Conley was instrumental is pulling free agent Rudy Gay to Utah. The two played together for five and a half seasons in Memphis.
“I became like a recruiter in a sense, and I couldn’t be more excited,” Conley said. “He’s a good friend of mine. Our families are close.”
“What’s funny is me and Mike always text and talk,” said Gay, who played the last four seasons of his 15-year career with the San Antonio Spurs. “We’ve been talking ever since I left the Grizzlies. But I think this team was the team that had the most need for what I can do.”
Like Conley, Gay also had a list of teams interested in him. But he saw just how good this Jazz team can be.
“It’s my legacy, to be a part of something,” Gay said. “After 15 years, this is obviously what makes me go. I’m in Salt Lake City to win a championship.”
Add free agents Hassan Whiteside and Eric Paschall, and Conley loves what the Jazz have done this off-season.
“The mindset is to chase a championship now,” he said. “We’ve made improvements each year. Last year had a disappointing end to it, but we’re still chasing that championship, and it’s something that is truly attainable.”
As for his hamstring, which forced to miss 26 games last year, Conley says it feels strong.
“The hammy has been good,” Conley said. “It’s been really good. I’ve been training really hard, and I’m just going to continue to do my part and make sure I do everything under the sun to have my body in position to be at its peak.”