Mike Conley was making good progress recovering from a hamstring strain. All signs were pointing to him returning to action for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal matchup between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.
But, on the day of Game 2 of the second-round series, Conley suffered what he called a ‘small setback,’ which has kept him out longer than originally expected.
The initial hamstring pull wasn’t nearly as bad as the one he’d had during the regular season. The Jazz termed the most recent injury as a mild right hamstring strain, and Conley said that’s exactly what it was.
He’d had eight days off after feeling some pain and tightness in Game 5 of the Jazz first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies. He’d been going through all the right treatments and precautions to be able to lace up his sneakers and rejoin his team, and that’s when the setback occurred.
“It was similar, but kind of went down a little bit further so it was kind of stretched out a little bit longer range from just the spot that was originally initially sore,” Conley said on Wednesday morning after being ruled out of play in Game 5 against the Clippers. “It’s almost like the initial spot is feeling a lot better and now, as it went down further, trying to get that spot to let go a little bit and heal.”
“I’ve played through a lot of things in my career and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again ... if we can find a way to get a win here and there (in Game 5 and 6) it’d give me a couple more days to hopefully feel a bit better going forward.” — Mike Conley
Conley said he feels close to a return, but at this point, with how close together games are scheduled, there’s no way for him to be at 100% health. He intimated that if the Jazz’s current series against the Clippers came down to a Game 7, he would play.
“With the way things have been progressing and obviously with the series as close as it is and as tight as it is, I think that this series is possible, depending on the situation,” he said. “I’ve played through a lot of things in my career and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again ... if we can find a way to get a win here and there (in Game 5 and 6) it’d give me a couple more days to hopefully feel a bit better going forward.”
Conley’s frustration with the injury and the setback is obvious. He’s been working tirelessly, focusing on his conditioning and treating the hamstring with the utmost caution and care for months. To be sidelined as the Jazz were playing at such a high level and for it to happen during the playoffs has tested Conley, making him weigh how hard he pushes through his rehabbing and treatment.
Some days he works on strength conditioning but some days he does nothing, hoping that the hamstring will feel better after rest.
“You push it too far and you might have another setback and be out longer,” he said. “If we are able to get out of this round, going forward, you don’t want to miss multiple series because of an injury that you could have managed a little bit better.”
Conley isn’t concerned about the hamstring being a chronic issue going forward. With hamstring injuries, the best thing for complete healing is time, but time is not on the Jazz’s side right now. They’ll worry about full recovery in the offseason.
Conley knows that there will be some risk and some pain when he is able to return, but those are risks he is willing to take.
“Time is the best thing for it and we don’t have that,” Conley said. “But at the same time we’re expediting it as quickly as we can and like I said, I feel capable and ready if I’m able to play in this series.”