Mike Conley is thinking big as his basketball journey takes him to Utah, citing the Raptors’ improbable NBA championship as inspiration.
Toronto’s triumph is “confirmation” that a smartly constructed roster—not necessarily a super team—can indeed contend for the ultimate prize, according to Conley.
The Memphis Grizzlies dealt the 31-year-old veteran point guard to the Jazz this summer, who he believes will be there “at the end of the year knocking at the door.”
“I think we all see that it’s an opportunity for all of us to have that aspiration,” Conley said. “We all want to win a championship. And especially myself, it’s something I’ve really been looking for my whole career and have gotten close and never been able to push through.
“And now it seems like it’s the time — this year especially, there’s not too many teams with three big-time, top-five, top-10 guys on a team. It’s kind of split up, so it’s a great opportunity for the Jazz to just be ourselves, continue to improve as the season goes on, and we’ll be there at the end of the year knocking at the door.”
It’s been 20-plus years since the Jazz last made the NBA Finals, making back-to-back appearances in 1997 and 1998 with the John Stockton-Karl Malone teams that fell to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, and more than a decade since Utah was in the conference finals with Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer in 2007.
“We embrace the expectations because we’re trying to field the most competitive team that we can in pursuit for a championship,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanek said. “We got a lot of work to do. We got to have the team jell and spend time with each other, and we have time to do that. But again, we’ll embrace everything because we’re here to compete.”