Mike Conley’s recent contract extension was met with mockery from all corners of the Internet, primarily because it was Mike Conley getting the huge extension. Yeah, a little scorn was reserved for the Grizzlies, who might have priced themselves out of the running for their future free agents, but for the most part it was the Conley Factor, which is not a political debate show on C-SPAN but maybe it should be. Simply put, Conley’s been below average since he entered the league and he’s not worth all that money.
But that’s the old Mike Conley (but not that old Mike Conley). The new Mike Conley, the one who’s averaging 16 points, 9 assists and 6 boards a game this season, he’s way better, thanks in part to a sports psychologist who worked with him in the offseason. Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins has the story.
Psychologists are becoming as fashionable in the NBA as personal chefs. The Lakers’ Ron Artest thanked one for helping him to the championship last season. The Blazers’ Brandon Roy saw one regularly over the summer. Conley, on a recommendation from Hollins, asked one to visit him during the offseason in Columbus. He did not know that the psychologist would spend four straight days with him.
“I would wake up and he’d work out with me, eat lunch with me, eat dinner with me, and then be back first thing the next day,” Conley said. “It felt like I was being debriefed in a long investigation.”
Conley was searching for an old self, the fearless attacker who raced to rims and led Ohio State to the 2007 NCAA title game, only to disappear behind NBA three-point lines.
“I became a player who was like, ‘You guys do this, you guys do that, I’ll just wait my turn,’” Conley said. “If you read scouting reports, they said I would pass every time. I had to get my killer instinct back.”
You know how the old saying goes: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Of course, if Ron Artest is the goose, then it’s sure to be a really weird gander. Lots of goose fights, I’m guessing.
But really, sports psychologists make a lot of sense. There aren’t a lot of people out there who would have an easy time dealing with having to be one of the best in the world day in and day out for nine months a year. Everyone has off days, and I’d guess that psychologists are able to help make that easier. You hear about players all the time who have lost their confidence — hello, Darko Milicic — and that’s such a big part of the game that it’s only logical that NBAers would benefit from a little psychological assistance.
I can really see this catching on. Professional athletes aren’t falling over themselves to admit they need help, but once they realize that four days with a shrink helped net Mike Conley upwards of $40 million, they’ll probably be a little more interested.