Trail Blazers Introduce C.J. McCollum

C.J. McCollum Interviews NBA President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn

C.J. McCollum is steadily making progress toward getting back on the court after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot on October 6, and even though his NBA debut is yet to be determined, he’s still keeping plenty busy.

But he’s still finding time to pursue his other interests of the court. While a lot of professional athletes never really put their degrees to use, McCollum is already applying the skills he learned as a journalism major at Lehigh by working as a correspondent of sorts for NBA.com. After going one-on-one with soon-to-be NBA commissioner Adam Silver right after the draft, McCollum landed an interview with newly-appointed NBA President of Basketball Operations, Rob Thorn. Some of the highlights …

C.J. McCollum: What is your day-to-day schedule like now, being in such a position in terms of controlling the fines?

Rod Thorn: I get here anywhere from 8 to 8:30 (a.m.), and we have people that work here who have a series of reports that I go through when
I get in. Did we have any flagrant fouls last night? Did we have any technical fouls? Did we have any altercations, fights, anything of that nature? I’ll have a report on all of that. We want to make sure that we’re on top of everything so that’s the first thing I do when I come in. If there is an altercation anywhere, I will always get a phone call, no matter what time it is. If there is an altercation, you interview the players to see what they felt about it and you end up making whatever decision you end up making.

Normally we have anywhere from three to five meetings a day on a range of subjects. We’re also involved in international here, we have 18 people that I’m responsible for that work internationally so we get reports from them, talk to them, and see what’s going on in their lives.

CM: NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver is taking over soon, what do you think will change, and what has it been like transitioning in to this season? I see you guys are changing the format of The Finals, that’s a huge change.

RT: [Commisoner] David [Stern] has been the commissioner for 30 years, he has a style, he has a personality. Adam has been here 21 years, so he has worked very closely with David for the last 10 to 15 years. I’m sure a lot of things will be very similar, but Adam has a different personality than David, so I am sure there are a few things Adam will do differently. We have a lot of new owners in the league now, and the old line owners, there aren’t very many of them left. There are a lot of new, young guys, so it’s a different group to deal with. I’m sure there will be some differences, but I think it will be a very smooth transition, because Adam has been a big, big part of what has transpired here over the years because he’s worked so closely with David.

As you pointed out, we do have a difference in The Finals, in the schedule from a 2-3-2 to a 2-2-1-1-1 format. When that was put in place in 1984, we didn’t have charter flights, you flew commercial. It was harder to get the media from one place to another. The feeling was, we’ll get more stories if you get the media in a place for three games, and it will reduce the travel. Now those aren’t as big issues. The competition committee felt there was a competitive disadvantage in it in that three of the first five games will be on the court of a team with the lesser record. Usually in a seven game series, if the series is tied 2-2, 86 percent of the time the team that wins Game 5 goes on to win the series. Also, the committee felt the team that had to go on the road for three games would be gone for seven or eight days so there would be a competitive disadvantage for them. There were a lot of things that went in to it and the reasons we did it originally are not nearly as important as they were at the time.

CM: Rumor has it that you played a role in drafting Michael Jordan. When you saw him playing at North Carolina, did you think he was going to become one of the best players of all time? What did you think his ceiling or basement was, and did he exceed your expectations for him?

RT: You know something, when we drafted Michael, my feeling was that we had a need for a lot of different things, but we definitely needed a wing player. I thought Michael would be a very good player. I wish I were prescient enough to even consider that he might turn out to be what he was, but the reality is, I had no idea he was going to turn out to be what he turned out to be. I was very hopeful that he’d be a very good player, and be an All-Star type of player one day. To be arguably the greatest player ever, certainly one of the greatest players ever, I had no idea of that.

CM: I had to ask that. He broke his foot his second year, I broke my foot in the first year, no one remembers that!

RT: He certainly did. At the time it was widely reported that when he was about ready to come back toward the end of the year, the Bulls were very skeptical about bringing him back.  Michael’s retort was ‘I want to play now, I feel good, and I never want to play on a team that doesn’t make the playoffs.’ So he came back, and the Bulls made the playoffs and that’s when he scored 60-some points in one of the games. He had the same injury you had, and hopefully it will work out for you the same way.

I felt like I learned a little about who Rob Thorn is and what his duties are at the NBA by reading this interview, so kudos to C.J. on a job well done. I also know that C.J., not someone working on his behalf, put the questions together and sent the finished product to his editors at the NBA, which isn’t always how these kind of features are get accomplished. You’ve got to respect a guy who wants to do his own work.