C.J. McCollum Cleared For Full Practice With No Restrictions

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

It was announced today after the team’s practice in Tualatin that rookie guard C.J. McCollum has been fully cleared to practice without restriction for the first time since breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot during training camp. McCollum underwent a non-surgical procedure to repair the fracture on Oct. 16 and has gradually increased his on-court work since then. While the team says there is no timeline for McCollum to make his NBA debut, he is now at least medically cleared to play in his first NBA game.

Here is what both McCollum and Terry Stotts had to say about McCollum’s return after Friday’s practice.

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TERRY STOTTS

“C.J. was cleared to practice today. He went five-on-five, he had a good practice, he looked good. There’s still no timeline on when he’s expected to play but it’s just the next step of the process of getting back. That’s where we are with that.”

What did you see from him?

“He moved well, he shot well. Going from one-on-one to three-on-three to five-on-five is a lot of the same things. Just getting back into the flow of things with this team.”

So he’s completely unfettered?

“No restrictions, unfettered.”

How happy are you for him personally?

“I’m happy for him more than anything else because he’s had a long year. Going back to Lehigh, it’s been a long year for him with the two injuries. A young guy like that wants to be on the court.”

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C.J. MCCOLLUM

How does it feel to be back out on the court without restrictions?

“It feels good to able to go out there and practice. This is one of my first practices going five-on-five with the guys so it’s good to be back out here and kind of feel like a player again.”

How are you feeling physically?

“I feel pretty good. I’m at my target weight right now, so that’s great. Just working my way back into game conditioning.”

How much do you miss being able to be out on the court?

“I miss it a lot. Watching your guys go out there and battle and you’re getting to watch practice and kind of see the gameplan unfold and watching the guys have success, it kind of makes you more hungry, makes you want to be out there, so I’m happy to kind of be able to work my way back into practice.”

Coach Stotts said there’s no timeline for your NBA debut. Do you have a timeline in your head?

“Hopefully soon, but just kind of taking it slow, following the protocol they have in place. I look forward to returning to game action.”

Have they talked to you at all about working you into the rotation?

“Just taking it one day at a time. It was good to get out there and practice and kind of get some live action in there. But obviously the next step will be playing the game, just don’t know obviously when that will be.”

You’re completely pain-free?

“I’ve been pain-free for a long time. But yeah, the foot feels really good. Obviously I’ve got to get more practices in, kind of get used to playing five-on-five, but I look forward to it.”

How will it be judged that you’re ready to get in games?

“I know I won’t be ready after one practice. We’ll just kind of take it slow and kind of see how I feel, see how I’m progressing.”

How much have you learned just watching the team without playing?

“I’ve learned a lot, honestly. We’ve got a great group of guys out there, a lot of veterans, a lot of guys with game experience. It’s good to kind of see how everything unfolds before you jump right into it. ”

Any discussion about being sent to the D-League?

“No, we haven’t discussed that.”

With the team playing as well as they are, you think it might be hard to crack the rotation. How confident are you about your ability to get in there?

“I’m here for a reason. It’s a long season. At some point you’re going to get your chance, you’ve just got to take advantage of it. Obviously we’re having a lot of success right now. Just look forward to working my way back in and doing whatever is necessary.”

Probably a good problem to have, joining a lineup that is already winning.

“Yeah, absolutely. You can never have too much depth.”

How hard has it been watching from the sidelines?

“It’s hard, especially watching other rookies, you played against rookies. Watching them have success makes it tougher but it kind of humbles you and makes you continue to want to work hard and get your chance.”

 

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Harkless And Henderson Hit On The Same Night In Houston

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

It’s been a bit of an up and down year for both Maurice Harkless and Gerald Henderson in their first seasons as Trail Blazers since being acquired via separate trades during the 2015 offseason,

Henderson missed all of training camp, preseason and the first eight games of the regular season, a difficult hurdle for a new player to clear, even for one entering his seventh NBA season, after undergoing a minor hip surgery in the offseason. As for Harkless, he’s already appeared in more games this season with the Trail Blazers as he did during the entirety of his last season with the Orlando Magic, though he’s seen most of his statistics, from minutes to points to rebounds, diminish every month as the year has played out.

For much of the season, Harkless and Henderson have been in a competition for playing time, with head coach Terry Stotts playing both roughly equal minutes in the first half of games, with the second-half minutes going to whoever played the best in the first. That went on for the first half of the season until Stotts opted to cut his rotation from 10 players to nine, which resulted in Henderson’s minutes increasing considerably while Harkless was relegated to playing mop-up minutes or simply drawing DNPs.

But Saturday night in Houston, Stotts would need both Harkless and Henderson with starting power forward Noah Vonleh out with a sprained left ankle and Allen Crabbe, Portland’s top sixth man this season, sidelined with a bout of gastritis. They responded by combining for 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting while taking turns checking Rockets All-Star shooting guard James Harden as Portland defeated Houston 96-79 at the Toyota Center. It was arguably the first game in which both players exceeded the high hopes Trail Blazers fans had for the two athletic wings, a game in which they were menaces on the defensive end while managing to take advantage of the opportunities provided by playing alongside the likes of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the offensive end.

“I (Harkless) he was very consistent with (Harden),” said Stotts. “He had good length, he was really in tune every possession. Harden is a great player, he’s going to get shots and you’re not going to completely stop him but I thought he worked really hard on him.”

Harden finished with 33 points, but needed 18 shots from both the field and free throw line while committing a career-high 10 turnovers, due in large part to the effort Henderson and Harkless put in.

“Gerald had a lot of bounce,” said Stotts. “He’s been on a roll, he’s feeling very comfortable out there. I thought defensively, he was good as well, he had his stint on Harden.”

As noted by his head coach, Henderson played easily his best basketball of the season since the middle of January, which has coincided with the Trail Blazers winning 10 of their last 13 games. Whether it’s due to being completely fit after missing the start of the season or knowing he’s going to second-half minutes — or a combination of both — Henderson has looked more like the player who started 292 games over six season with the Hornets.

“I feel good. I think that’s how I’m used to playing. I feel good and if I go in the game I try to bring energy — that’s it — on both ends of the floor. I think that helped us win tonight.

“I feel good and if I go in the game I try to bring energy — that’s it — on both ends of the floor,” said Henderson. “I think that helped us win tonight.”

While Henderson’s production has become somewhat expected over the last month of the season, seeing Harkless go from playing seven minutes combined in the five games prior to starting the last two games in place of Vonleh has been a surprise. Harkless himself said he was a bit taken aback by his promotion, though it was something he had prepared himself for, even when he was only playing fourth-quarter blowout minutes.

“I just stayed locked in the whole time,” said Harkless. “Even when I wasn’t playing at all, just stayed locked in, stayed ready, just kept working every day. I knew it would come back around.”

He only got 16 minutes in his first start of the season versus the Raptors, taking just one shot and scoring just two points in the loss. But on Saturday, Harkless almost doubled his playing time to 30 minutes and made a much larger impression in the process, going 2-of-3 from three in the first quarter and 6-of-13 from the field for the game while grabbing six rebounds and tallying two steals.

“I definitely think I just played better tonight,” said Harkless. “Last game, I hadn’t played in six games or something like that, it kind of caught me off guard when (Stotts) told me I was starting. So I think a little bit of it was rust but tonight I just went out there and just played. Making those first two shots, that was big for me as well.”

“For a guy to go games without even checking on sometimes or getting in for the last few minutes of blowouts, he could have easily been in his feelings and checked out on us, but he’s stayed locked in,” said Damian Lillard of Harkless. “At practice when they get out there and play three-on-three, he’s playing hard, he’s competitive, he’s positive. He’s been himself. I talked to him, I told him ‘You’ve just got to stick with it. You’re a huge part of what we’re gonna do. Just keep your mind right and be ready because you never know.’ We had a few guys do down and now he’s playing really well for us. I was happy with the way he played tonight.”

It’s hard to tell what will happen to Harkless’ and, to a lesser extent, Henderson’s minutes once the Trail Blazers are back to full strength. But for the first time this season, the full potential of both players was a welcomed sight.

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Trail Blazers Put The Past Behind Them By Winning In Houston

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 days ago

HOUSTON — The old saying goes that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If Saturday’s result in Houston is any indication, the Trail Blazers’ collective memory is well intact.

After losing to in overtime in the last game in Houston despite owning a 15-point fourth-quarter cushion, the Trail Blazers did a much better job protecting their lead in the second meeting, with the result being Portland besting the Rockets 96-79 Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 18,308 at the Toyota Center.

“That was a really good win, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I like the way we came out. Defensively we were solid all night, for the most part… They’re a dangerous team. They can get the threes going and I liked we kept our composure when they made their run.”

Portland is now 25-27 overall and 10-16 on the road this season after playing their last seven games in the cozy confines of the Moda Center. The Trail Blazers have now won 10 of their last 13 games and are currently mere percentage points behind the Utah Jazz for eighth in the Western Conference.

The Trail Blazers looked to be the better team Saturday night from the opening tip. Portland shot 52 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in the first quarter while scoring eight points on six Rockets turnovers to take a 29-23 lead into the second quarter. They’d start the quarter a 13-2 run to take their first double digit lead of the night and would go up by 21 by way of holding the Rockets to just four made field goals in the second quarter while turning six more turnovers into seven more points. Add with the Portland bench outscoring Houston’s 18-0 in the first half and it was easy to see how the road team took a 55-36 lead into the intermission.

“We played really well defensively, I thought,” said Damian Lillard. “We set the tone from the start of the game with active hands, getting our hands on the balls. We just weren’t fun to play against to start the game. That’s what we wanted to go coming out tonight and we did a great job.”

Portland would take their largest lead of the night at the 5:01 mark of the third quarter, though Houston managed to get that down to 21 before the start of the fourth. The Rockets would continue to slim the Trail Blazers’ lead, getting it down to 11 points in late in the fourth quarter. One can imagine there had to be a little nervousness on Portland’s bench after seeing two-thirds of a 32-point third quarter lead evaporate, especially with the specter of the last game in Houston still looming. But after a 10-0 Rockets run cut the lead to 91-76 with two minutes to play, Portland scored the final five points of the game to secure the 17-point lead.

“I don’t know if nervous is the right word, but certainly the way (Houston) won the last time here, I think that was probably in the back of everybody’s mind,” said Stotts. “They’re capable of doing that… I liked the way we kept our composure and pulled out the win.”

Six Trail Blazers finished in double figures led by Damian Lillard, who went 7-of-20 from the field and 3-of-9 from three to finish with 21 points and 10 assists for yet another double-double in 36 minutes.

CJ McCollum went 6-of-13 from the field to finish with 16 points, while Gerald Henderson went 5-of-8 from the field to 16 points as well. Al-Farouq Aminu filled up the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block. Maurice Harkless, who started his second-straight game in place of Noah Vonleh (sprained left ankle) and saw extended minutes due to Allen Crabbe missing the game with gastritis, went 6-of-13 from the field for 14 points, six rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes.

Portland’s bench would outscore Houston’s 24-12 thanks in part to the Rockets not getting any points from a reserve until early in the fourth quarter. James Harden finished with a game-high 33 points with Dwight Howard adding 17, but no other Rocket scored more than eight points in the loss.

“James (Harden) is a good player,” said Henderson, who spent a good chunk of his minutes defending the hirsute shooting guard. “He knows how to score, he knows how to draw fouls so sometimes it’s very difficult to guard him. He got his 30 but we felt like we did a good job containing some of the other guys.”

Next up, the Trail Blazers head to Memphis to finish a quick two-game trip versus the Grizzlies at FexEd Forum on Monday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 pm.

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McCollum On The Skill Competition: ‘I Ain’t Going To Be Cool Like A Lot Of Those Other Guys’

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
6 days ago

The NBA announced the participants Saturday night events at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto on TNT Thursday night, with Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum being one of the eight players selected to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

Here’s what McCollum had to say about being selected to participate in the Skills Challenge, his chances of winning the event, not being “cool,” the addition of power forwards and centers and what else he’ll be up to in Toronto…

Your thoughts on being invited to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You had said you wanted to compete in at least one of the events at All-Star, sounds like someone was listening.

CJ McCollum: “I would have liked to be in the Three-Point Contest too, but I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Skills Challenge. I look forward to trying to bring home another winning trophy like Dame did.”

When did you find out you were selected?

CJ McCollum: “A couple of weeks ago.”

Damian won it twice, I assume he’ll probably give you some pointers. But that’s got to be some pressure too considering he’s going to rib you if you won’t win it.

CJ McCollum: “Nah, no pressure. This is all in good fun, it’s a competitive environment, the juices will be flowing. I’ll definitely get some pointers from him, get a little bit of practice in next week.”

What do you feel like you bring to the Skills Challenge that will put you in a good position to win it?

CJ McCollum: “I’m gonna go hard and try to win. I ain’t going to be cool like a lot of those other guys. Hopefully they continue to try to be cool; I’ll go hard. Get in and out of cuts, try to make crisp passes, knock down the shot and keep it moving.”

You mentioned practice. You going to wait until you get in Toronto or put in some time before that?

CJ McCollum: “I’ll probably practice here next week, get a couple runs in.”

What do you think about the field? They’re letting bigs in this year.

CJ McCollum: “Yeah, I see we got a lot of big men in there. They’re shooting threes now days, they’re becoming more well-rounded. Glad to see them competing in this as well and hopefully a guard brings home the championship, not a big.”

I think a lot of people are picking last year’s winner, Patrick Beverley, or Isaiah Thomas as the favorites. How do you like your chances?

CJ McCollum: “I like my chances. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good chance at winning. Obviously it’s about getting the pass in there, making sure you make the jumpshot and everything else should be easy.”

A lot of guys who come up playing basketball participate in three-point or dunk contests, but have you ever done anything similar to the Skills Challenge?

CJ McCollum: “No, I’ve done three-point competitions before, but never a skills setting like this.”

You mentioned you were planning on going to All-Star Weekend even if you weren’t selected to compete in an event, so what else do you have scheduled for Toronto?

CJ McCollum: “I’ll be at the Players Association meeting on Friday. I have a couple of events with my sponsors, I think I’ll have something with Mountain Dew, a couple NBA Cares events and then I also sit on a panel. And I think I might do a segment for Inside Stuff while I’m there, maybe a community service event as well. But I don’t have my full schedule yet.”

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