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Conley's Conundrum: Should He Play Hurt or Rest Up Until the Playoffs?

Mike Conley might be shut down for the remainder of the season, and that has created a lot of discourse among writers, fans, etc. Every game matters more than the last for the Grizzlies at this crucial juncture in the season, so the debate over whether or not to play Conley makes sense. However, I think the decision is a no-brainer. He should sit.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With three games remaining and the Grizzlies jockeying for playoff position, the Grizzlies face a difficult personnel decision. Mike Conley is slowly recovering from a foot injury that could sideline him for the rest of the regular season per a report by The Commercial Appeal.

The panic on various social media sites over Conley's injury has been palpable, and there seems to be a great divide about whether Conley should sit or attempt to play through the pain.

There are generally two lines of thought here. The first is that Conley playing likely gives the Grizzlies the best chance to hold onto the two seed in the Western Conference. Caution is central to the alternative thought process. If Conley plays injured, he will only be aggravating his foot further before getting to what really matters — the playoffs.

I don't fully understand the first line of thinking. Sure, the Grizzlies want to avoid the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, and their best chance at accomplishing that is by winning the two seed. But is it worth it to play an injured Mike Conley for the sole purpose of attempting to avoid the Spurs? Even if he plays, it's not a sure thing.

Beno Udrih, typically the Grizzlies' backup point guard, has fared well when slotted into the starting lineup. Udrih has averaged 12.3 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in nine games as a starter this season. Additionally, his three-point percentage as a starter is an even 50%, inexplicably up from the brutal 22% clip at which he makes threes coming off the bench. He's risen to the occasion more often than not when he has replaced Conley in the starting unit, so there is no reason not to ride with Beno as the starter for three more games to end the regular season if Conley feels like rest will help him recover at all.

There is no guarantee Conley will be healthy in the playoffs if he shuts down for the remainder of the regular season, but the chance of him playing at full strength again in the playoffs would be almost completely eliminated if he finished the regular season fighting through games on a bum foot.

The Grizzlies' struggles late in the season have been well-documented, but they are still a very, very good team playing at full strength or anywhere close to it. I think I'd take my chances against the Spurs — assuming the Grizzlies get Conley (not to mention Tony Allen) healthy by resting him — rather than face a lesser team in the playoffs with Conley at half speed.

Of course, if the Grizzlies sit Conley, proceed to lose the two seed, and then lose in the first round of the playoffs, head coach Dave Joerger et al will receive blame. That wouldn't mean the wrong decision had been made though. It's difficult to remember at times because sports is a results-driven business (what isn't?), but process does matter.

Grizzly Bear Blues' own Austin Reynolds made this point very succinctly on Twitter:

The point of that is to say if the Grizzlies end up not accomplishing what they set out to in the playoffs because they sat Conley, consequently lost the seeding battle, and had to play a tougher team in the first round, that doesn't mean sitting Conley was the wrong thing to do, at least not in my eyes.

What the entire discussion boils down to is, would you rather the Grizzlies avoid the Spurs at all costs, or would you rather Conley stand a chance of healing his foot and being fully ready to go in the playoffs? To me, it's an easy call. Conley should sit.