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Mike Conley returns as Utah Jazz take on Sacramento Kings

Welcome back, Mike.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Getting back home after a long road trip brings its benefits: sleeping in your own bed, getting back into your normal gameday routine, and—in the case of tonight’s game—getting Mike Conley back in the rotation. The Jazz’s prized offseason trade target is back after taking one month off to rehab his hamstring. The veteran star point guard will be easing back into the rotation with a minute restriction while coming off the bench. Conley will be a welcome sight for sore legs as he’ll provide rest to Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles who has been doing a lot of heavy lifting as Utah’s main playmakers.

The Utah Jazz could have used Mike Conley in the game against the New Orleans Pelicans. In that game Utah fell to Pellies in Overtime due to tired legs, a little winning fatigue, and a Pelicans team that is starting to hit its stride again. In that game, Donovan Mitchell made some questionable decisions in the clutch as he may have tried to win the game a little too much by himself. Usually that’s not a bad thing, but on the end of a road trip and a 10 game winning streak, the Jazz were running out of steam and needed to work more as a team unit. Conley’s veteran playmaking would have proven valuable.

The Sacramento Kings enter this game on the heels of a trade that sent Trevor Ariza, Wendell Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan to Portland. The Kings were already shorthanded by the injuries to Nemenja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes. Luckily, they have the desired prize of every NBA team in this upcoming Trade Season in Bogdan Bogdanovic returning to the court tonight. He had been out with an ankle injury. The Kings are 3-7 over their last 10 games with their only wins coming against the Suns, Warriors, and Grizzlies.

Over their last 10 games Fox and Hield are both averaging 20+ points a game. Buddy has had his own problems in Sacramento lately—and some moments post game—but he’s still getting buckets. Utah will need to contain the Kings backcourt and do a much better job while guarding the perimeter. Too many times against the Pelicans, Utah’s guards had trouble fighting through screens which put way too much pressure on Gobert. Brandon Ingram feasted against Utah in their last game, that can’t be De’Aaron Fox or Buddy Hield tonight.

Game Info

When: Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 • 7:00 PM MT

Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena • Salt Lake City, Utah

TV: AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain

Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone

What to watch for

NBA: Orlando Magic at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back, Mike Conley!

If a game could be handcrafted to start easing Conley back into the rotation, tonight’s game would be it. The Kings are shorthanded, dealing with the flux of a trade, and as such their bench will be less of a challenge. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Utah Jazz will be easing Conley back from off the bench.

It makes sense for a number of reasons. The first is the most obvious, Conley’s last time on the court came in last return to the court from his hamstring injury. He re-aggravated it in that return which led to his most recent one month absence. Utah will want to bring him along slowly this time around.

The second is also obvious, the Jazz have the luxury to ease Conley into the lineup slowly because Utah’s current starting lineup is a wrecking ball. In Mike Conley’s absence, Utah’s starting lineup of Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert has the best Net Rating in the entire NBA. That could partly be the result of a soft schedule, but other teams have been having trouble with their cupcake schedules (ahem, Rockets).

One thing that should be interesting will be how Emmanuel Mudiay’s minutes off the bench are affected. Jordan Clarkson has been an automatic bucket getter off the bench. Mudiay had been improving until last game where a classic Mudiay performance reared its ugly head. Mudiay has been improving exponentially, but a veteran star point guard is a massive improvement over a developing player. Conley and Clarkson as Utah’s guards off the bench is so stupid good. The type of stupid good that only happens by turning on override CPU GM trades in NBA2K.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Dewayne Dedmon tryout?

Like Emmanuel Mudiay, Tony Bradley has played way above his expectations. That’s amazing short term, but Utah is in the market for a more experienced big man. Enter Dewayne Dedmon who is wasting away in Sacramento under coach Luke Walton. Dedmon played well with the Atlanta Hawks, but hasn’t found that magic in the Cowbell Kingdom. Maybe the Wasatch Front would get him back to the way he was.

Dedmon really wants out of Sacramento, but his contract is a bit of a doozy. He’s not getting much time, and he could be a very valuable piece to Utah at the trade deadline as they continue to surge up the standings and look every bit of a championship contender as we hoped they would be at the beginning of the season. Another plus? He wears Donovan Mitchell’s D.O.N. Issue #1 shoes.

Mandatory Highlight

SLC Dunk made some friends and possibly some unfriends this week.

Game Thread Ground Rules

Welcome to the SLC Dunk Game Thread.

Dunkers know how this thing works, but for you lurkers ready to make the jump to Dunker, we have a few guidelines. Remember to follow our community guidelines (no swearing, trolling, excessive use of Jerry Sloan’s name in vain, no personal attacks, no debates about Utah liquor laws, etc.). Remember to have fun. Anyone who dare blasphemes that Tim Duncan was a Power Forward (this means you, Pounding the Rock), Ben Simmons can hit threes, Gordon Hayward should not be booed, Donovan Mitchell is Monta Ellis 2.0, men should never cry, or John Stockton is not the best point guard of all-time will receive an automatic ban. Just kidding. But seriously.