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Mike Conley talks pending free agency as Utah Jazz’s season ends

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Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley eyes the basket as he goes up for and hits a 3-point shot.

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) eyes the basket as he goes up for and hits a three point shot as the Utah Jazz and the Sacramento Kings play an NBA basketball game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 10, 2021. Jazz won 128-112.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Following the Utah Jazz’s postseason exit on Friday night at the hands of the LA Clippers, a huge question facing the team in the offseason is the future of point guard Mike Conley.

The 33-year-old is a free agent who had an excellent 2020-21 season for the Jazz, and the team doesn’t have the financial ability to go out and sign another floor general of his caliber.

On the other hand, the Jazz could bring Conley back (teams can go over the salary cap to re-sign their own free agents), but it would put the team deep into the luxury tax, meaning owner Ryan Smith would be on the hook for a big bill to the NBA aside from the team’s total salary.

On Saturday afternoon, Conley addressed his pending free agency during the Jazz’s customary exit interviews the day after the season.

“Obviously you know how I feel about our team and the city and the fans,” he said. “It’s been just a wonderful two years. Definitely an up and down two years but wonderful regardless of how it ended last night.

“Free agency is free agency...it’s something that I have to sit back and consider with my family and when that time comes, make the decision that’s best for us, myself. Like I said, obviously I’ve had a great time here, great, great experiences, coaches — Coach Quin (Snyder) and the players, Don (Mitchell) and Rudy (Gobert) and everybody, so we’ll just have to see what happens.”

Conley would certainly command less than the approximately $34 million he made this season but could still be in line for a big pay day despite his age given that he was named an All-Star this season for the first time in his career.

“Obviously I can’t speak, look into the future what exactly will happen,” he said. “It’s actually like my first time being a real free agent, so it’ll be interesting, but I did love it here and we’ll see what happens.”

The success of the Jazz through the regular season is a credit to many, but a large portion of that credit goes to Conley, who had one of the best seasons of his career. Though injuries are a concern moving forward, it’s clear that Conley still has plenty of value to an NBA team.

Executive vice president of basketball operations, Dennis Lindsey, while limited in what he can say regarding Conley’s free agency, made it pretty clear how much Conley has meant to the Jazz over the last two seasons.

“Who he is, what he stands for, the speed, skill, experience, intelligence, character, poise that he adds to the group, those are all — we just pinch ourselves, it’s an honor to have him a part of the program,” Lindsey said. “We’ll have just a real honest conversation and see if you can make a marriage work, but couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Though his teammates won’t play an official role in the efforts to re-sign Conley, they will do what they can to convince him to come back to the team that helped him earn his first All-Star bid.

“I’ll do everything in my power, whether I have to FaceTime him or fly to his mansion in Ohio and have lunch with him or something, whatever it is, I’ll try,” Joe Ingles said.

Snyder offered particularly heartfelt comments about Conley during his end-of-season remarks.

“Not only is he a great player, but he’s one of the best human beings that I’ve ever had an opportunity to be with on a daily basis,” Snyder said.