By Kelton Brooks
Mike Conley doesn’t have the finesse and lethal ball handling of Kyrie Irving. He doesn’t contain the explosiveness of Russell Westbrook. Conley isn’t the facilitator in the class of Chris Paul or isn’t as flashy as Steph Curry or possess the athleticism of John Wall.
All those players listed above also contain another attribute or stat that Conley doesn’t have: a technical foul.
Conley is as steady as they come, which is both a detriment and a positive in his game and personality on the court. Conley, undeservedly the second-highest paid player in the NBA, hasn’t received a technical foul in 10 seasons, 758 games played, and 24,922 minutes on the court.
Conley also has zero Finals appearances and was swept by the Spurs (0-4) in the 2012-13 Western Conference Finals, his only conference finals appearance of his career. The only technical foul Conley did receive was rescinded against the Sacramento Kings back in November of 2014.
There is a level of sportsmanship that deserves praise in Conley never receiving a technical whistle from the referee and that praise is a pat on the back. In the epic “Take that for data” rant by Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, Fizdale said, “It’s unfortunate that I’ve got a guy like Mike Conley that in his whole career has got zero technical fouls and just cannot seem to get the proper respect from the officials that he deserves.” Fizdale also said Conley doesn’t “act crazy.”
Let’s look at that rant one more time for the fun of it:
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) April 18, 2017
Fizdale was ultimately fined $30,000 for criticizing the NBA officials, which was paid for by Conley and his teammates.
But for Conley, sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Emotion is great on the court whether its harnessed or even explodes without damage. Not letting the referee or players know that you’ve had enough is not “class.” Conley isn’t a vocal leader, but being subdued on the court isn’t grasping a level of respect.
His lack of bravado is also an illustration of his play, averaging 14.2 points per game and 5.7 assists his whole career, yet still receiving a five-year, $153 million contract. He is beloved in the city of Memphis, but he is not a $153 million player.
DeMarcus Cousins led the NBA with 18 technicals, Westbrook was second with 15, Kevin Durant had eight, LeBron James had three, Irving had three, even the pampered Curry had four.
What do all of these players have in common? They are superstars in the league. The Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas had 14 as well, and they are not superstars, but they are players that warrant a level of respect in the NBA.
Conley has been a solid player throughout his career, but not great, averaging 20 points per game for the first time this season in his 10 year career. He has also never averaged over seven assists in a season.
The Grizzlies and Conley lack star power. Zero technicals is an afterthought as the Grizzlies head back to Memphis down 0-2 to San Antonio in an inevitable sweep.