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Mike Conley: De’Aaron Fox ‘is going to be great’

The Grizzlies’ veteran point guard sees a lot of himself in Sacramento’s rising star.

Kimani Okearah

Dave Joerger’s first gig in the NBA was as an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2007-08 season. That also happened to be the rookie season of a talented point guard out of Ohio State. Mike Conley was quick and could fill up the stat sheet in his 26 minutes per game, but struggled with his shot. The Grizzlies coaching staff assisted Conley with his shooting mechanics, and with continued work, he was able to develop a reliable jumper that helped propel him into becoming a franchise piece for Memphis.

A decade later, Joerger is now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings with another young and quick point guard in De’Aaron Fox, and Conley, who is working on getting his legs back after coming back from an Achilles injury he suffered last season, is still leading the Grizzlies offense along with Marc Gasol. Conley and Joerger faced off Wednesday in Sacramento and the Kings got the best of Memphis in a 97-92 victory.

Following the game, when Joerger was asked about the comparison between Fox and Conley, he said, “they are both left-handed and really fast, and I love them both.” He referenced how much they have both worked on their jump shots.

“What people were saying about Mike, is what they are saying about De’Aaron, can he get a jump shot?” Joerger said. “Mike worked hard at it, De’Aaron is working hard at it, so it is a lot of fun to watch.”

Conley spent some time catching up with his old coach before and after the game, and later joked about Joerger giving Fox all of the secrets to his game. Conley spoke to Sactown Royalty and supported the comparisons between himself and the quick Kentucky guard.

“I see a lot of it. I felt it out there, it was like playing against myself at 20, 21 years old, but a lot taller and a lot more athletic. He’s got a lot of talent,” said the 6’1’’ Conley of the 6’3’’ Fox. “He’s going to be great. Obviously, he’s got all of the tools – athleticism, he can defend, he’s an unselfish player, his shot is getting better as he gets older, so the sky is limit for him.”

Speaking of that shot, here are some stats from each player: Conley averaged 42 percent from the field in his rookie season and improved to 44 percent in his second season. Fox shot 41 percent in his rookie campaign and after five games into his sophomore year, he is at 46 percent. On Wednesday, he was 7-16 (43 percent) against the Grizzlies and finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. Conley’s best shooting season came in 2016-17, when he was at 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. Fox is currently 1-10 from three this season after finishing last season at 30 percent.

Conley, who had 27 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal against the Kings, said early in his career when he began working on his shot it felt awkward because he had always shot a particular way. Once he locked in on the mechanics and figured out what a consistent shot looks and feels like though, he used repetition to get better.

“I’m sure that’s what De’Aaron Fox is going through, the same thing just trying to get the reps, get the technique down, and I mean it looks good every time he puts it up,” Conley said. “He’s a great kid and I wish him the best.”