Jazz's Mike Conley Says It's 'Surreal' to Be 'Villain' Against Grizzlies After Game 3

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 30, 2021

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) shoots as Memphis Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen (3) defends during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, May 29, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)
AP Photo/John Amis

Mike Conley spent 12 years playing the hero in Memphis, shepherding the offense through the Grit and Grind era.

Returning for the first time for a playoff series as an opponent Saturday, Conley saw firsthand what it was like to be the "villain" as he dropped 27 points in the Jazz's 121-111 win over the Grizzlies in Game 3.

He said after the game:

"It's amazing to be playing against a guy like Ja [Morant], first off. Just seeing a guy that's so talentedhe's a young superstar in the leaguewearing the jersey that I'm so used to wearing. ... Getting the cheers from the crowd that I'm so used to hearing, it's surreal. It's like full circle. You never thought that it would be this way; I never did at least. It's like sometimes you live long enough to become the villain, and I've become that for the Memphis Grizzlies now."

The divorce between Conley and the Grizzlies was one of mutual respect. Memphis moved on after selecting Ja Morant to serve as its point guard of the future, sending Conley to a Utah team that fit his game perfectly. There are few situations where a player and team have broken up under better terms.

That said, playoff basketball is playoff basketball. Any opposing player—even a franchise legend—is going to hear some jeers when he drops seven threes on the home team's head.

Morant, meanwhile, has been sensational in keeping the Grizzlies competitive against the top-seeded Jazz. His 33.7 points per game in the first round rank third behind only Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard among playoff scorers.