The Grizzlies, however, said they expect the 30-year-old to make a full recovery, and to be ready by the start of 2018-19 training camp.
Conley, who hasn’t played since Nov. 13, will have the surgery to “smooth a small bone protrusion in his left heel that continues to cause pain and soreness.”
He had originally been considered day-to-day, and expected to miss just two weeks with the heel problem. Then the Grizzlies announced he would miss a few additional weeks. Then they pushed back his timeline again.
With the Grizzlies currently sitting at 17-31, the third-worst record in the western conference, there was no sense in risking Conley’s health.
In fact, his injury might be a convenient excuse for Memphis to tank – or at least lean in that direction. The Grizzlies have been a roughly above average NBA team for years now. They’ve therefore never had a lottery pick with which to build around Conley and Marc Gasol. This is their chance.
There have been rumblings about a Gasol trade, with the Spanish big man free to opt out of his contract after the 2018-19 season. Nonetheless, the best path forward for Memphis is likely to engineer a quick, short-term rebuild around Conley. A high draft pick in a strong 2018 draft could be a key building block.
Conley, who has spent his entire professional career in Memphis, signed a five-year, $153 million deal just 18 months ago. At the time, it was the most expensive contract in NBA history. The former fourth-overall pick will have three years left on the lucrative deal when he returns to the court next season.
The 6-foot-1 point guard had struggled in just 12 games this season. His shooting percentage (38.1) was by far the lowest of his career. His assist average was also a career low.
But Conley had the best season of his 11-year career in 2016-17. The hope in Memphis will be that a return to full health will coincide with a return to his best.