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Donovan Mitchell cleared to play, Mike Conley vs. Memphis and how the Jazz prepare for Jaren Jackson Jr.

SHARE Donovan Mitchell cleared to play, Mike Conley vs. Memphis and how the Jazz prepare for Jaren Jackson Jr.
Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell jokes with Joe Ingles after a 2021 game. Mitchell was cleared to play in Game 1 of the Jazz’s playoff series against Memphis.

FILE - Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and guard Joe Ingles (2) talk as they leave the court after the Jazz won over the against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Mitchell was cleared to play in Game 1 of the Jazz’s playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Donovan Mitchell will play in Game 1.

The Saturday evening injury report had just one player listed and it wasn’t the Utah Jazz’s All-Star guard.

Ersan Ilyasova is questionable with a non-COVID related illness and outside of that, the Jazz are at completely full strength heading into their opening round series against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Mitchell practiced in full with the Jazz on Thursday, his first full practice since spraining his right ankle on April 16 and missing the final 16 games of the regular season. Mitchell said after that first practice that he could tell he hadn’t played in a few weeks but said outside of some expected soreness he wasn’t experiencing any lingering pain.

“It’s not a huge stretch that you’ll be fatigued if you hadn’t played in a while,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said on Saturday, referring to Mitchell. “You don’t go from zero to 100 right away. So I know there’s (an) acclimation period. That said, I also think that his approach is right where it needs to be. He’s excited to play, excited to compete and it’s just great to have him back.”

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley shoots over Memphis Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen.

FILE - Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) shoots over Memphis Grizzlies center Xavier Tillman (2) during the game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 26, 2021. Conley will face his former team, the Grizzlies, when Utah plays Memphis in the playoff’s first round.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Mike Conley vs. Memphis

For 12 years, Mike Conley called Memphis home before being traded to the Jazz in 2019. Now the Grizzlies will make their first playoff appearance in four years and they’ll do it against Conley, who guided Memphis to seven consecutive playoff berths from 2011 to 2017.

“Something must be happening, the way that things are just lining up, ironically enough,” Conley said. “It is a coincidence but, the Grizzlies are and have always been a team that’s fought and been a hard working organization and guys just really bought into that, and especially those young guys there now. They’ve been unbelievable.”

When the Jazz play Games 3 and 4 in Memphis it will be a sort homecoming for Conley, who still has extensive family in the Memphis area. Though Conley spent the first 12 seasons of his career playing in front of the Grizzlies faithful and is as familiar as anyone with the FedEx Forum, he isn’t willing to say it will provide him any sort leg up on the competition.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s an advantage,” Conley said. “I haven’t been on the other end of playoff ball in Memphis. I know how great the fans are there when they’re rooting for you, but I don’t know what it’s like when they’re against you, so I’m looking forward to that. It’s a new chapter for me and it’ll be fun to compete in a city that was home for me for so long and against a team that’s playing so well.”

Preparing for something different

In the three regular season matchups between the Jazz and Grizzlies, Memphis was missing a pretty key piece of their rotation — Jaren Jackson Jr.

The third-year, 6-foot-11 power forward-center suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee while playing in the Orlando bubble last year and made his return to the court on April 21.

Though he only played in 11 regular season games before the two play-in tournament games, and is still rounding into form, Jackson is one of the Grizzlies’ top options and the Jazz have prepare for him.

“That adds a different look,” Snyder said of Jackson. “They can go big with he and (Jonas) Valanciunas together, he can play the five, he stretches the floor. So, there’s some things that from the personnel standpoint, when we played them early in the year that are different.”

Game 1 of the Jazz-Grizzlies first-round series will be at Vivint Arena on Sunday and tips off at 7:30 p.m. MDT on TNT.