LAS VEGAS — With numerous scenarios leaking out ahead of last February's NBA trade deadline, Mike Conley Jr. was mentally preparing for a new setting in case a move was made.
Although the Utah Jazz were rumored to be at the forefront to acquire Memphis’ longest-tenured floor general, nothing happened as he finished his 12th season in his No. 11 Grizzlies uniform.
However, four months later on June 19, as Conley was stepping off a flight to visit his mother, Regina, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, he learned that he was being traded to Utah for Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen and future draft picks.
The deal didn't become official until last Saturday, but Utah’s newest No. 10 couldn’t be happier in his new basketball home.
During Monday’s introductory press conference, alongside new teammate Bojan Bogdanovic inside Encore Ballroom 1 at The Encore Hotel, the 31-year-old revealed why he was still able to average a career-best 21.1 points despite the uncertainty during that last season in Memphis.
“Faith is big in my family and for me, I was never able to get distracted with all the things that were going on last season strictly because of that foundation and being able to believe regardless and have faith regardless of what’s in front of me,” said Conley, who also posted nightly averages of 6.4 assists. 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 33.5 minutes per contest.
“I never felt discouraged,” he continued. “I’m always the type of person that thinks everything is going to work out, regardless of the situation, and things are put on people’s table for a reason and ultimately full circle, I’m here. It didn’t work out in February but now I’ve made it here and it’s going to be a great place for my family.”
With The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community strongly prevalent in Salt Lake City, the Conley family certainly respects the culture but is also deeply rooted in its own beliefs.
“That never crossed my mind because I know what we believe and I don’t think what we believe affects wherever Michael plays,” Regina told the Deseret News. “He’s rooted and grounded in what his faith is, so that never even crossed my mind.”
Regina was among the Conley clan there to support Mike from the front row of the press conference Monday, along with his father/agent Mike Sr., siblings, Jordan, Sydney and Jon, plus his cousin, trainer and president of business affairs. Mike Sr. and Regina have been married for 33 years and continue to attend St. James Baptist Church in Fayetteville, where they raised their children as active Christians.
Regina’s brother, Rodney Corbin, is also a pastor at New Haven Missionary Baptist Church in West Helena, Arkansas, where Conley recently donated $500,000 in April to Methodist Healthcare's efforts to treat patients with sickle cell disease. He has contributed more than $1 million to the cause since 2011.
In addition to being an Olympic gold medalist in track and field, Mike Sr. attended a private Lutheran high school, Luther High School South, while growing up in Illinois.
“That is huge for me and especially for my kids,” Regina said. “Sometimes, I try to tell my kids that sometimes things may not look a certain way and you may feel down and out about decisions, but God doesn’t make mistakes, so we know you’re in the right place and something good is going to come from that even if it may not feel like it at the time, so just staying grounded is huge and important.”
As successful as his basketball career has been throughout his NBA tenure, Conley drew interest in the Jazz front office for his reputation off the court as well. He received the 2019 NBA Teammate of the Year and Sportsmanship awards in June after winning the January NBA Cares Community Assist Award for his passion to give back to the community. Grizzlies owner Robert J. Pera said in a release that they plan to retire Conley’s No. 11 jersey after he "represented the Grizzlies and the City of Memphis with true heart and class during his 12 seasons.”
“Mike’s reputation as a leader, his talent as a person; we’d heard all of the stories of just how great of a player and person that he is,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said. “It’s been magnified since we’ve got a chance to spend some time with him the last few days.”16 comments on this story
Following the press conference, Conley jumped on a flight back to Salt Lake City, where his wife, Mary, and children continue to get acclimated to the new city. Now that the trade hoopla and chatter has passed, that initial faith is what helped them weather the storm of change.
“That’s what faith is, not knowing but having faith, and he truly believes that his path is already made, and he put it in God’s hands, and this is where it ended up,” Mike Sr. said. “Everyone has their faith and we respect that, so it’s no different there.”