Last summer, Mike Conley Jr. signed the richest contract in NBA history, a five-year, $153 million deal with Memphis. It is the first contract worth more than $100 million that includes an average of salary of at least $30 million.
Those numbers command respect, and Conley certainly has that. In fact, opponents have approached him differently this season.
“I think a lot of guys try to prove themselves against me a lot,” Conley said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “And also on the other end, I think a lot of guys really respect what I do and respect what I’ve done and the position that I’m in because I know it’s not an easy one. It’s just cool to go out there with a different level of responsibility every night that I haven’t been accustomed to the previous nine seasons of my career.”
Conley, 29, is averaging 19.4 points, 6.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. The fourth overall pick in 2007, Conley has had a great career, even if he doesn’t have the All-Star nods to prove it.
“It’s a blessing,” Conley said of his career. “(To be) 6-1, 180, to be in a position that I’m in, it’s unbelievable. I’m honestly blessed every day I wake up and realize that all the hard work and everything I’ve been through, all the sacrifices, are starting to pay off.”
Conley has led Memphis to a 35-25 record. The Grizzlies are currently the 6-seed in the West and trail the Jazz (37-22) by 2.5 games for the 4-seed – and thus, home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Conley believes Memphis can improve a great deal in the final months of the season.
“We have to find a level of consistency,” he said. “With guys coming back from injury, Chandler (Parsons) is starting to play, more guys’ roles are starting to change a little bit. So the sooner we can get our roles identified and guys’ minutes where we need them to be and get into a rotation where all of our guys are comfortable and in a rhythm, the quicker we’ll be able to compete at that high level that we can compete at and hopefully chase a championship.”
Memphis hosts Phoenix (18-41) on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.