SAN ANTONIO — Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley suffered an eye injury that was repaired by what one of the team’s athletic trainers called “a continuous stitch” after a collision in the fourth quarter of his team’s 95-89 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
The injury occurred when Conley collided with Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard with 3:42 left to play.
Grizzlies coach David Fizdale claimed Conley was “knocked unconscious” in the collision, but the point guard said he would have returned to the game if the team’s medical staff had been able to stop the bleeding. Conley said he wasn’t sure whether he’d be available for Memphis’ matchup Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, as the team would evaluate the injured area for swelling.
“I’m feeling fine. I’m frustrated,” Conley said. “This is what an offensive foul looks like. If it was flipped, I feel like it would have been a different call. That’s what’s frustrating right now, more so than anything — and losing.”
The collision took place with the Spurs leading 77-71, as Leonard ran with Conley along the baseline. The injury took place off the ball, and officials whistled Conley for an offensive foul.
“It was really difficult,” Fizdale said. “Not only did he get his head split open, but we lost out on the call. I don’t know how he got knocked unconscious with a split eyebrow, and the foul was on him. That’s a tough one.”
The Spurs and Grizzlies, who are likely to match up in the upcoming playoffs, had few positives Tuesday as the teams met for the third time in 17 days.
All Conley remembered about the play was “us bumping heads. Obviously, I didn’t foul him. But I hope he’s all right. I don’t know what happened with him. I just know that for me to get this and to walk off with a foul is unacceptable in my opinion.”
In the locker room after the collision, Leonard mentioned that he had “a headache.” Just last month, he was forced to take part in the NBA’s concussion protocol after he took a blow to the head from Victor Oladipo.
Leonard said he was “just trying to play defense on Conley” during the collision. “I don’t know if he went one way and came back, but our heads ended up butting each other. That’s pretty much what happened.”
Conley, who finished with 19 points and six assists, left the court shortly after the collision. He was holding a towel to his bleeding right eye, and it was announced that he would not return.
Conley explained how doctors stitched up his wound.
“Instead of having like 13 [stitches], they’ve got this new stitch they can just run across the underneath [area] of it,” Conley said. “As you can see, it’s cut across the whole eyelid. So I’m thankful it’s not worse because I’ve had eye injuries before. I’m just thankful this is just a gash. It could always be worse.”
Memphis was already playing without top defender Tony Allen, who was recovering from an eye injury.
Conley, who signed the NBA’s richest contract in free agency, has produced a career season. He came into Tuesday’s matchup averaging 20.5 points and 6.5 assists in 65 outings.
Conley has dealt with multiple injury issues the past three seasons, including transverse fractures in the vertebrae located in his lower back this season. That injury was suffered in a November matchup against the Charlotte Hornets.