The Lehigh University athletic department caught up with Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, presumably while he was back on campus to attend his girlfriend’s graduation, about his rookie season in Portland. McCollum talks about returning to the court after missing the first part of the season with a foot injury, helping the team prepare during the playoffs and starting his sophomore season with a “clean slate” …
The Trail Blazers finished the regular season tied for the fifth most wins in the NBA, beating Houston in the first round of the playoffs before falling to San Antonio, a team currently in the NBA Finals.
“Being able to watch and see how each game plan is executed, taking part in the practices and just being engaged throughout the process definitely helps your development, whether you’re playing or not,” said McCollum. “A lot of lottery picks are on losing teams. They’re not able to play in the playoffs and advance to the second round against a championship caliber team like the Spurs.”
McCollum played a critical role in practice to help prepare his teammates for talented players like Jeremy Lin of Houston and Manu Ginobili of San Antonio.
“When you go through the playoffs, you go over plays from the other team,” said McCollum. “I played roles as other players, depending on the team and personnel. It was a good opportunity to learn other teams’ plays, see their schemes and see how we execute game plans against their schemes.”
Despite seeing limited minutes, McCollum continued to be a good teammate. When asked of his favorite memory from the season, he answered with a team highlight, even with several strong individual performances from which to choose.
“Obviously one of the best moments was when Dame hit that game-winner [in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals],” said McCollum. “If we go back to Houston, you never know what can happen. Being able to be a part of that and watch the execution down the stretch, it was a great moment for our team.”
The focus now shifts to next season. McCollum is looking forward to 2014-15 and a fresh start.
“A clean slate will give me a much better chance to develop and give the coaching staff an opportunity to continue gaining trust in me,” he said. “When you go through the system and you go through the trenches playing with your team, it helps you gain valuable trust from teammates.”