The Memphis Grizzlies are getting their money's worth from veteran guard Mike Conley.
The 29-year-old point guard signed the richest contract in NBA history in July, a reported five-year, $153 million deal, and is averaging 19.2 points for the Grizzlies (9-5).
That average, if maintained, would be the best of his 10-year career. Same for his percentages from the floor (45.1), 3-point line (49.3) and foul line (89.2).
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Conley scored a season-high 31 points as Memphis beat the Charlotte Hornets 105-90 on Monday, the Grizzlies' fifth straight victory. The Grizzlies will look to extend that streak on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, against a 76ers' club that has won its last four at home, the most recent a 101-94 victory over the Miami Heat on Monday night.
“I'm very confident,” Conley told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal after the victory over the Hornets. “I take what the defense gives me, but also I have the confidence of the coaching staff, the confidence of my teammates. They depend on me to go out there and do that. Some nights I look to be more aggressive than others.”
Conley made 11 of 21 shots from the floor Monday, including 5 of 9 from behind the arc, as the Grizzlies built a 26-point lead early in the third quarter. Charlotte sliced that to nine with 10:43 left in the game, but Memphis salted the game away behind veteran center Zach Randolph, who scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, and Conley, who had seven.
“Our group doesn't cave,” first-year coach David Fizdale said. “That's one thing I like about them, we don't cave in. If you're going to beat us, you really have to earn it.”
Joel Embiid, the Sixers' rookie center, scored 22 points against Miami, including five free throws during a decisive 10-0 run late in the game. Gerald Henderson added a season-high 19 points for Philadelphia (4-10). Jahlil Okafor had 15 and Ersan Ilyasova finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Embiid, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, did not play his first two seasons after twice undergoing foot surgery. The team is limiting him to 24 minutes a night as a precaution until at least Christmas. He nonetheless leads Philadelphia in scoring (18.4) and rebounding (7.3).
His improvement to date, coach Brett Brown said has been “incremental all over the place.”
“There's a spirit he has at the end of games and on the bench,” Brown said, “that reflects toughness and a growing desire.”
Guard Jerryd Bayless made his season debut for the Sixers after missing the first 13 games with a wrist injury. Ben Simmons, the top overall pick in the most recent draft, has yet to play this season following foot surgery, and will be out until at least January. Nerlens Noel (knee) also remains idle, and Brown said it will be a few more weeks before he is available.
The Grizzlies, already without forward Chandler Parsons (knee), lost James Ennis to a calf injury against the Hornets.