OAKLAND, Calif. — Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley hopes to return for Game 2 of the Grizzlies’ playoff series against the Golden State Warriors after participating Monday in his most extensive workout with the team amid his recovery from facial surgery.
“I believe I will,” Conley said when asked if he will play Tuesday. “But I believed that for the last week. So I’m really hopeful. They tell me I can play once I’m ready, and I feel like I’m ready to go. It’s just on me.”
Conley has missed the past three playoff games since he was inadvertently elbowed in the face April 25 in Game 3 of the Grizzlies’ first-round series win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Just a week after undergoing surgery to repair fractures around his left eye, Conley was on the court with teammates Monday in a downtown San Francisco athletics club running through limited scrimmage drills.
Memphis coach Dave Joerger said he still considers Conley doubtful for Tuesday’s game against the Warriors but indicated a final decision won’t be made until just prior to the start of the game. The Grizzlies struggled in the second half of Sunday’s 101-86 loss after shooting just 38 percent and committing 10 of their 16 turnovers in the second half of Game 1.
Conley went through a workout on the court about an hour before Sunday’s game but held off a return because he was still dealing with sensitivity to light and conditioning fatigue. Joerger said the team would continue to proceed with caution regarding Conley’s status as his health improves.
“This was the most he’s done today,” Joerger said of Conley’s practice work. “There’s life, and then there’s competing. These guys care about one another and love one another. They want to give us our best chance. Having a healthy Mike Conley certainly helps that. There are things we’ve got to balance, and if he’s medically able to compete, then he should have that opportunity.”
Conley, who has been working out with a protective mask, said he’s been medically cleared to return. He said the only remaining hurdles involve growing comfortable with the mask and dealing with the condensation that builds within it as he sweats.
“It gets kind of hot in there, kind of foggy,” Conley said. “That’s the only issue. Your first concern is your health and your vision. You want to make sure those things are good. The condition and timing, that will come. Throw me out there and I’ll work my way through it. The more I play, the better I’ll feel.”
Conley said he’ll ultimately make a decision after going through another set of workouts during the team’s morning shootaround and once the Grizzlies arrive at Oracle Arena two hours before tipoff. If he sits out Tuesday, Conley will have another three days to rest and recover before the series shifts to Memphis, Tennessee, for Game 3 on Saturday.
Memphis has been erratic in Conley’s absence at point guard, where Nick Calathes and Beno Udrih struggled both defensively and to consistently get the team into offensive sets the past three games. Conley, who led the Grizzlies in assists during the season and was the team’s second-leading scorer in the playoffs, said there will be an adjustment process when he returns to action.
“It is the playoffs, and you try to do what you can to win,” Conley said. “We’re at the time of the year where the competition is high. We’re at the point where you wait all year for. I think it will help a lot, especially mentally, to be able to get the feel of the game back.”
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