Grizzlies’ Mike Conley: “I know that we wouldn’t be in this position if I was playing”

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Mike Conley, Memphis’ borderline All-Star point guard, has been sidelined since mid-November with a sore Achilles. Without him, Memphis has lost nine in a row, their losing streak reaching 11 total. On the season, Memphis is 0-10 when Conely sits.

During this latest streak, the Grizzlies fired coach David Fizdale in what GM Chris Wallace said was an effort to salvage the season. Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal sat down for a Q&A with Conley and asked him about having to sit out and watch the franchise lose and make another coaching change.

It’s been stressful because it’s literally all out of my hands. I can’t control anything. I can’t be on the court to help. I can’t be there to console guys. It’s very hard to sit and watch because I know that we wouldn’t be in this position if I was playing. That’s why I feel some kind of accountability for this whole thing. It’s definitely hard on me. I know that we’re not the team we’ve been over the last couple of weeks. I know when I get back, we’ll be a completely different team.

Conley wasn’t fully healthy and not himself to start the season, averaging 17.1 points per game but on 38 percent shooting. Even with him slowed, the Grizzlies are four points per 100 possessions better when he plays, and that still sells short his ability as a floor general and defender to make the Grizzlies work. This is a team ideally built around two top 25 players in Conley and Marc Gasol, with solid role players around them (how accurate that perception is we can debate, but it’s apparently what GM Wallace believes). Take one of the stars away and this team is not the same.

So when will he return? Probably a couple of weeks.

After this last incident, they (the doctors) told me the Achilles can heal fully. I just have to give it time to heal. As we know, I rush things a lot and when I come back I won’t say anything about it but I might be feeling it. I might withhold that from the trainers to try and get on the court. I’ve done that over the years. Right now, I’m trying to do the smart thing, which is frustrating. But I knew I wasn’t helping the team with the way I was playing.

Maybe he wasn’t helping him the way he is used to, but this team needs him on the court to have any chance of salvaging the season.