True Hoops

True Hoops

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Point Guard Project - Mike Conley

Happy New Year!
And finally, welcome to a new edition of the Point Guard Project!
Did you miss us?

In case you forgot, previous participants:

PGP1 - John Lucas
PGP2 - Luke Ridnour
PGP3 - Jrue Holiday
PGP4 - Ricky Rubio
PGP5 - Royal Ivey
PGP6 - Damian Lillard
PGP7 - Derek Fisher
PGP8 - Stephen Curry
PGP9 - Chauncey Billups
PGP10 - Derek Rose
PGP11 - Ty Lawson
PGP12 - Sam Cassell

Today we are joined by Mike Conley.

As a refresher, the PGP questions:

1) Who did you watch play growing up? And whose game did you try to emulate?

2) What was your first memorable point guard match-up, when you first got into the league?

3) What is your definition for the job of a point guard?

4) How do you determine when to shoot vs. when to pass?

5) What is a typical workout for you like?

6) Do you have any words of advice for young aspiring point guards?

Mike was drafted 4th overall in the 2007 draft by the Memphis Grizzles. At 6'1" and 180 ibs, he boasts career averages of 12.7 points and 5.6 assist per game. However, this year (his 7th in the league) Mike is averaging a career best ~17 points a game to go along with 6.3 assists.

You might remember that he helped lead the #8 seeded Grizzles to upset the #1 seeded Spurs in the 2011 NBA playoffs (only 4th 8th seed in history to do that). Not to mention helping the Grizzles get to their franchise first conference Finals last year. And in case you didn't know, he also made the NBA All-Defense 2nd team last year as well.

Mike played one year at Ohio State, helping them reach the 2006 title game. He was also a 2006 McDonald's All American.

Mr. Conley, welcome to the PGP:

Summary of answers:

1) Grew up watching (was a big fan of) Gary Payton and Allen Iverson. Pick and choose different parts of their games and put them into your own.

2) First memorable point guard match-up: Deron Williams in Utah. Very tough matchup and opened his eyes about what this league is about. He (Deron) had a lot (of points) on was an eye opening experience.

3) Definition for the job of a point guard: You want to be a leader, a facilitator, and make sure everyone is in positions to win and be successful. That's his biggest goal as a point guard.

4) Pass vs. Shoot: Read the flow of the game, if you got it going early and made a few shots, might want use that time to be more aggressive offensively. But most of the time, you can pick and choose when guys are in good position to score, read the defense and know who to pass it to.

5) Typical workout: Wake up at 6:30-7:00 (presumably am), right bike to gym. Get in a good weight lifting session in for ~1h & 15 min. Get on the court and do a lot of ball handling then at least 400-500 shots and then be done for the day. Take a lot of shots off the dribble. On days feeling more fatigued or over worked - do more spot shooting, just to keep the rhythm.

Bonus: Have you ever seen your youtube video "Ball on a String" that something you still do?
It is. It's really really good for you. The guys who work me out at Ohio State university come up with new drills. Every summer when I come back to something new and I try to figure them out.

6) For aspiring point guards: The biggest thing for young point guards is always believe in yourself. A lot of us are smaller guards (6 foot guards). You have to believe in yourself and try and stand out in any
way you can

Was it me, or did Mike Conley seem like the consummate professional?

As per usual, let me mention a few things that come to mind.
Isn't it great how you can be 6 feet, but in the NBA, a small guard? I remember growing up, for some reason 6'2" seemed to me to be the magic number with regards to height. I told myself, "if I can grow to be 6'2", I'll have the necessary height to play PG in the NBA!" (I actually made it to 6'1" aka 6'2" with sneakers! - so why aren't I in the NBA? Oh, you mean there is more to it than just height?).

But actually in Today's NBA, there are tons of smaller guards. Ty Lawson, Kyle Lowry, Jameer Nelson, Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, Kemba Walker, Eric Bledsoe & Trey Burke are some that come to mind off the top of my head. Still, I can see how running into a 6'3" 210ib D. Will as a rookie can be a learning experience upon first entering the league.

And how about the leaderships qualities this guy exudes?
"Make sure everyone is in positions to win and be successful."
"choose when guys are in good position to score. Read the defense and know who to pass it to."
So basically, the guy on your team that handles the ball most of the time should know the strengths of every player on the team, where on the court they are most efficient, and then assess if the defense is allowing them to be in a position to be successful when they get the ball???
Sounds like the type guy you want running the show!

But what do I love most about this interview? It's how fairly detailed Mike's response is for his daily workout. Out of all the PGP questions, I kind of feel like this might be the most important one - mostly for educational purposes. And it kind of irks me when I hear players give half-hearted or vague descriptions of their workouts. But not Mike!
Bike to the gym (seems like a good warm-up)
Lift before going on the court
Start on the court with lots of ball handling
Then get up 400-500 shots a day (shot type varies depending on energy levels).

Okay, it might have been perfect had he described what weight lifting exercises and shots off the dribble he really focuses on. But hey, this is a great blueprint and I think providing an actual number of shots is important. Rather than some arcane/random routine, you are focused on a goal every day. Ask Ray Allen or Steve Nash.

You can also say that Mike didn't provide details for his dribbling drills either.
That's because you can find them online!
What is "Ball on a String" you ask?
Well, let me blow your mind:

You're welcome.

Crazy, isn't it? Well, now you know what a pro ball handling practice routine is.
Three things:
1) This might be the opposite of what Sam Cassell and Ty Lawson say in their interviews, as far as practicing ball handling. But, what Mike is doing provides you with a skill set, strength, and endurance. A lot of times practice is supposed to be harder that the games. Trust me, if you can master dribbling two balls at once, handling one ball will be fairly straight forward. You won't use most of these moves in a real game. But by doing them, your confidence in you ability to handle the ball in any situation will be fairy high. And, you will feel like you can pretty much do anything with the ball, like it's an extension of your body - complete control, like you have it on a.....string!

2) When I was a freshman at St. John's university, Erick Barkley - who was a McDonald's All American, All Big East point guard, and eventually drafted by the Portland TrailBlazers - told me I should practice dribbling two basketballs at a time. Kind of cool he dropped that knowledge on me, considering I was a walk-on. Erick is a coach now, by the way.

3) You might hear me tell Mike Conley in the interview "I can't tell you how many times I reference that video when I was training." That's no lie! When I was getting ready to try out for professional teams a few year back, this was something that I incorporated into my workout. I used it as a way to warm-up. I would go through all the variations in the video for a specific amount of time or a specific amount of reps. And better than that, this is also a routine that I put a lot of my high school players on to as well. As a 15 minute warmup before getting into shooting (but after lifting), it's really beneficial!

And I'm glad that we all get to benefit from having the video (and this PGP interview) readily available online!

Much thanks to Mike Conley for his time!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Point Guard Project!
Stay tuned for more!

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