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NBA AM: Mike Conley the West’s Best Kept Secret?

All-Star or not, the underrated Mike Conely Jr. is now one of the elite point guards.

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The Underrated All-Star:  Believe it or not, the Memphis Grizzlies once tried to trade point guard Mike Conley Jr. They put Conley on the market a couple of times early in his career, mainly because he was developing too slowly for a team that was desperate for leadership and a strong hand on the wheel of the team.

Today that concept seems almost crazy, mainly because Conley has become one of the most consistent players at his position in the NBA and is the heart and soul of what the Grizzlies are about on and off the floor.

Sure, forward Zach Randolph and guard Tony Allen set the tone in the locker room with their boisterous commentary, but when it’s game time Conley runs the show with precision.

Conley, for years now, has made slow and steady progressions as a player, adding little parts to his game and becoming one of the best kept secrets in the Western Conference.

Among his peers at the point guard position, Conley is ranked third in the West in points per game at 18.1, just behind Stephen Curry’s 23.2 and Damian Lillard’s 22.1.

Conley ranks sixth in the West in field goal percentage at 46.2 percent and leads the West point guards in three-point shooting percentage with a scorching 42.6 percent mark from three. Curry comes in second at 39.9 percent and is considered one of the best shooters on the planet.

Despite what can only be described as being overlooked, Conley continues to lead his team on both ends of the floor. He’s gained a reputation as a tenacious defender, one of the better defenders on the ball in fact.

For Conley, he says he has a few unfinished goals: winning a championship and receiving some personal recognition too, hoping that he can make the All-Star team this year.

That possibility, like much of his playing career, seems to be overlooked in favor of bigger names putting up bigger individual seasons.

Over the last few seasons there has been four point guards named to the All-Star team. Based on the last round of fan voting, Curry should get the starting spot, leaving potentially three chairs for the likes of Lillard, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Conley.

Given that the coaches name the All-Star reserves, Conley may have a chance – however remote – but if he does not make the cut, he pledged that it would be one more snub that makes him work just a little bit harder in the offseason.

The numbers say he is the one of the best in the West. His play on the floor says about the same, the question is will the guy everyone has counted out from the start of his career actually be able to check one of those goals off the list or will the West’s best kept secret stay under wraps for another year?

Hard to believe the Grizzlies once tried to trade him. It’s even harder to believe a team on the other end of the phone didn’t snatch him up. Imagine what Memphis would look like without him today.

Sometimes non-trades are a blessing in disguise.

Derrick Rose Goes off After Loss:  Sometimes things happen and they are part of the script. In Chicago, for example, after a loss you expect some F-bombs from center Joakim Noah. He’ll be a little loud and emotional, that’s who he is and how he expresses himself. However, point guard Derrick Rose is the opposite. You would almost have to poke him to know he was awake. He is often subdued, relaxed, never emotional or loud; well, except for yesterday.

After falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-94, Rose vented in a very unexpected way.

“Everybody has to be on the same page, until then we are going to continue to get our ass kicked,” Rose said to Nick Friedell of ESPN.com.

When pressed to provide specifics, Rose laid the blame everywhere.

“It’s just the whole team,” Rose said. “We’re not communicating while we are on the floor to one another. Everybody is quiet. Until then we are going to get the same results.

“Trust plays a part too, but communicating on defense, in a team sport, I think communication is huge. We are quiet while we are out there. It’s leading to them getting easy baskets. We got to make, give a better effort. It seems like we’re not even competing it is [expletive] irritating.”

Rose’s candor was clearly driven by another loss for a team that’s supposed to be closing the gaps in the East.

“We give up so many easy baskets, over time it gets to you,” Rose said.

“I don’t know what it is, it’s just compete, compete, just go out there compete. It should be fun. Basketball should be fun. It seems when we are out there we are overthinking. Competing wise it seems we are not there.

“We are mid-way through the season, there are no excuses. My biggest thing is competing. Playing this game for so long, when you don’t have that edge you are going to keep getting our asses whooped.”

Nothing Rose said was overly surprising; however, how he said it says volumes for where things are emotionally and if it came from almost anyone else in the locker room you’d chalk that up to post-game frustrations after a loss. But, when Rose digs into the F-bomb bucket, it’s so unexpected that it means maybe he has to say something in order for things to improve.

The Bulls have dropped two straight games and six of their last ten. They find themselves 7 ½ games out of the first seed. The Bulls have a five game cushion on the fifth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers with 39 games remaining on the schedule.

Of the remaining 29 games the Bulls will see 24 Eastern Conference teams and play 17 teams with a record at or above .500. The Bulls schedule is somewhat balanced with 19 home games and 20 road games left to play. If the season ended today the Bulls would host the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs. The Cavs have a 2-0 regular season series lead, with two more games remaining: one in Chicago on February 19 and the final one in Cleveland on April 5.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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