The Utah Jazz traded for Mike Conley last summer with the idea he could be a big part of their NBA championship-winning aspirations.
The league, of course, is on hold right now during the coronavirus pandemic, but Conley, at least, will still be aiming for a title on Thursday.
The semifinals and finals of the made-for-TV NBA HORSE Challenge (aired on ESPN) will be Thursday night, with Conley one of four competitors remaining after he beat 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Tamika Catchings in the first round.
In the semifinals, which will air at 7 p.m. MT Thursday, Conley will take on retired five-time NBA All-Star Chauncey Billups, who mounted a late comeback in the first round to beat Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young.
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine will face Allie Quigley of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky in the other semifinal Thursday night.
All players are competing from their homes, although some from the beginning wondered if Conley had an advantage over the rest of the field because he’s shooting in a gym in his Columbus, Ohio, home, whereas everyone else has been on outdoor courts and have had to deal with elements such as wind.
In the first round, Conley showed another edge he has: he’s ambidextrous, which comes in handy in HORSE, as a player can specify which hand has to be used to shoot a shot. Against Catchings, he on multiple occasions called out that a shot needed to be taken with the “off hand,” which meant he shot with his right hand and Catchings her left.
Earlier this week, Conley told Ohio sportscaster Clay Hall in an interview that he and Billups are good friends, but that’s extra motivation to win.
“I love Chauncey,” Conley said. “We talk trash all the time on different subjects and stuff, so I’m definitely going to bring my ‘A’ game. I am not taking him lightly at all. He has a nickname ‘Mr. Big Shot’ for a reason. He’s going to make his shots. He can shoot the ball. I hope I win the coin toss so I can go first.”