Jazz’s Mike Conley leaves Disney bubble ahead of NBA playoffs for birth of son; likely to miss multiple games

At long last, the 2020 NBA playoffs will get underway on Monday with a quadruple-header of Game 1s. The first game of the day features an interesting Western Conference matchup between the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, who are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

It will not feature Mike Conley, however, as Utah’s starting point guard left the bubble on Sunday to return to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, for the birth of his son, Elijah Michael Conley. Conley announced on Instagram that everyone is doing well. At this point it’s unclear when Conley will be able to return, but he does plan on coming back, according to a report from ESPN’s Eric Woodyard. 

Players who leave the bubble with league and team approval and undergo negative COVID-19 testing every day they are gone must still quarantine for at least four days upon returning, according to the league’s health and safety protocol. With no travel, the first-round series are going every other day, which means Conley will miss at least the first two games, and that’s only if he returns on Monday. Depending on how things go with his family, he could be out even longer.

While Conley obviously made the right decision to be there for the birth of his son, this is still a big blow for the Jazz. They made two key acquisitions this offseason, signing Bojan Bogdanovic and trading for Conley, and now neither will be there for the start of the playoffs. Between them, that’s about 35 points per game of production they have to replace — a tough ask for a team without many perimeter creators. 

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Conley didn’t have a great start to his time with the Jazz, but he was playing quite well in the bubble, averaging 18 points and five assists, while shooting 37.2 percent from 3-point land. When he was on the court these past few weeks, the Jazz had a plus-5.1 net rating, and when he sat it plummeted to minus-11.3. That’s a pretty dramatic split. 

Backup point guard Emmanuel Mudiay figures to take on a much bigger role until Conley returns, and the Jazz will likely run more of the offense through Joe Ingles as a point-forward. But while the Jazz will need those two to step up, much of the added pressure will fall to Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Those two stars will have to be playing at a high level in order for Utah to keep up with the high-powered Nuggets offense. 

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