After fears that Memphis Grizzlies star guard Mike Conley could miss one to two months because of a back injury, Conley is on course to return to the team’s lineup soon, league sources told The Vertical.
The Grizzlies on Thursday had to waive guard Toney Douglas – who had been signed under the NBA’s hardship waiver – to clear the way for the imminent returns from injury of Conley, Chandler Parsons and James Ennis, league sources said.
Conley, 29, had been medically cleared to work out in recent days and is feeling closer to a return, league sources said.
The Grizzlies have won a remarkable seven of eight games since Conley suffered a fractured vertebrae in late November, surging to an 18-9 record and the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies play Sacramento on Friday – a meeting against former Memphis coach Dave Joerger – and the Utah Jazz on Sunday, both at FedEx Forum.
Ennis (calf injury) has been close to returning and is expected to play Friday night, league sources said, but Conley and Parsons have become the far more dramatic possibilities.
Between offseason right knee surgery and a recent bruised left knee, Parsons has played only six games for Memphis. He signed a four-year, $94 million free-agent contract with the Grizzlies in July.
Conley, in his 10th season with Memphis, has exhibited a history of extraordinary pain tolerance in his career, including the 2015 NBA playoffs when he played with a facial fracture.
After signing a five-year, $153 million maximum contract extension in July, Conley had gotten off to the best start of his career this season, averaging 19.2 points and 5.7 assists for the Grizzlies. In his absence, All-Star center Marc Gasol has been a dominant force, and a combination of guards – including Douglas, Andrew Harrison and Troy Daniels – helped Memphis deliver several improbable victories.
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