24/05/2024

At 36, Timberwolves' Mike Conley pushes teammates to 'do it for him' in playoffs

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At 36, Timberwolves' Mike Conley pushes teammates to 'do it for him' in playoffs

Point guard Mike Conley is playing in the postseason for the 11th time in his career, but he hasn't been on a team advancing as far as the Western Conference finals since 2013.

Point guard Mike Conley is playing in the postseason for the 11th time in his career, but he hasn't been on a team advancing as far as the Western Conference finals since 2013.

Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley is 36 and headed to the NBA playoffs for the 11th time in his career.

He hears the clock ticking.

Saturday's first-round NBA playoff opener against Phoenix is fast approaching.

"My urgency is at an all-time high," he said. "I don't think there's anybody on either team that wants it more than me."

And he has told his teammates so.

"I told the guys that, selfishly, do it for me, man," Conley said. "Help me out. Meet me at my level right now because I don't got long. Y'all got forever, it feels like."

The last time Conley went deep in the playoffs was 2013, when his Memphis team reached the Western Conference finals and was swept by San Antonio.

"I reminded them the last time was like 12 years ago, so it's not a given," Conley said. "You've got to be taking advantage of the moment you get. This is a heck of a team we have here and a heck of an opportunity that we don't want to waste."

Center Rudy Gobert is five years younger, but he, too, knows time is passing. He and Conley lost in the playoffs' first round together the past four seasons with Utah and Minnesota.

"It's right now," he said. "I'm really embracing the moment. I don't plan, obviously, on retiring anytime soon. But I really believe we have a chance. I really believe those types of seasons that we had don't come just like that. Some teams can't have the opportunity to get back together for a lot of different reasons. So we have a unique opportunity and I truly believe everyone in this locker room is aware of that."

Conley was 25 when he last reached the conference finals.

"You never know when opportunity will come to get back," Gobert said. "For me, the most important thing is enjoy the moment. Just embrace it, every single day we wake up and when we go to sleep."

What's the point?

Conley's point guard matchup is the Suns' Bradley Beal, who isn't really a point guard but he plays one since last summer's trade with Washington put him in Phoenix alongside super scorers Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

"It has its ups and downs," Beal said of the change. "Obviously, it's not my first natural position, but it's something that I've been playing over the last four or five years probably, and something I've become more accustomed to. I wouldn't want to play point guard in a better situation than two killer scorers next to me. So I have no problem at all adjusting."

Proving them wrong

Gobert calls the Wolves' 56-win season an "amazing opportunity" to win a championship that he has always dreamed about.

No matter what naysayers might say about the Wolves' twin big-man experience with Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns or Gobert's dominant defensive game. He noted such players as Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo or Denver's Nikola Jokic once were doubted, too.

"The highest mark of respect is people challenging you to do things that you haven't done," Gobert said. "I haven't been past the second round yet, so how can I be mad at them for challenging me to do that? We saw it with Giannis. We saw it with Jokic. Everyone always had something to say about their game and who they are as players until they won a championship. Then what did people have to say after that? Not much."

"They can only respect. So I have to earn their respect."

Any time

The Wolves' first four games in the series will be played at 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. 9:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Central time. Games 3 and 4 are in Phoenix, so the times for those games locally are 7:30 and 6:30, respectively.

Wolves coach Chris Finch said afternoon or night, it's no matter to him despite the slow starts his team has had in the past 10 games or so.

"Nah, we'll be ready to go," he said. "A whole week's worth of practice has been great. This time of year, it's a luxury you create for yourself. But I know we'll be ready to go. The 9 o'clock start sometimes are the hardest ones just because you have to wait around all day."

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