MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Mike Conley Jr. was about to take the floor in Utah for a pregame warm-up on Feb. 8 as the Jazz were getting set to host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
He was stopped by General Manager Justin Zanik and it was the night before the NBA trade deadline. Something was up. Zanik told him it wasn’t a done deal, but it was trending towards him being moved to the Timberwolves, ironically that night’s opponent. So as not to cause a distraction or put his teammates on notice, Conley went through his pregame routine and workout.
Shortly before tip-off, the deal became official. He was heading to Minnesota as part of a three-team deal that sent D’Angelo Russell to the L.A. Lakers. He was able to say his goodbyes to teammates that night, and instead of meeting new teammates and sit on Minnesota’s bench, he went home and spent the night with his family.
Conley, 35, has appeared in more than 1,000 regular season games in 15 NBA seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Jazz, averaging 14.7 points over his career. He’s shooting 43.8% from the field, and 38.1% from the perimeter for his career.
Conley played in 43 games this season with the Jazz, averaging 10.7 points while shooting 40.8% from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.7 assists per game.
The Timberwolves returned from a four-game road trip earlier this week, and Fox 9’s Ahmad Hicks got a chance to catch up with Conley at Mayo Clinic Square.
"I still feel like I’m myself and I feel like that gets overlooked a lot. People talk about age and all that, how many years, I’m still the same guy. I can still score a lot if I need to, I can still defend, I can still make plays for everybody and control games," Conley said. "That’s the most important part to me. When I’m myself, I can bring a team from one level to another and this team has that potential."
The hope is Conley, being reunited with Rudy Gobert, is a better fit for the Timberwolves than Russell as they aim to get to the Western Conference Playoffs for the second straight year.
NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER READY TO ‘GO ALL-IN’ WITH WOLVES
Nickeil Alexander-Walker said he had trouble processing it at first. He was about to play the Timberwolves on Feb. 8 before he found out they would be his new teammates.
He was part of the trade that sent Russell to the Lakers, and he would be joining Conley in Minnesota. Now in his fifth NBA season, Alexander-Walker averaged 6.3 points in 36 games with the Jazz in a role off the bench.
He scored his first points with the Timberwolves in Thursday night’s loss to the Washington Wizards. His biggest focus now is helping the Timberwolves get to the playoffs and do some damage. They’re 31-30 heading to the All-Star break, and eighth in the West with 21 regular season games to play.
"It’s exciting and it means a lot because that’s all you ever want to do in the NBA. When you think about how many guys have been in the NBA ever, and then you think about how many have actually won. That number dwindles by a lot, so any chance you get to do something special, it’s appreciated and it means a lot," Alexander-Walker said. "It’s exciting and you just want to jump in and just go all-in."