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.”
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 marginally 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.
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.
While the Rockets never got closer than 11 points in the fourth quarter, there had to be a little nervousness on Portland’s bench after seeing two-thirds of a 32-point third quarter lead evaporate. 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.
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) 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.
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.
It’s well known that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has many interests. While practicing and playing basketball is how he spends the vast majority of his time, the 6-3 guard out of Weber State is an aspiring rapper, a pitchman for the likes of adidas, JBL and Spalding and an ambassador for Special Olympics. And now, he can add “cartoon character” to his list of roles, as he, along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Indiana’s Paul George voiced characters for an upcoming episode of “We Bare Bears” on Cartoon Network…
Some additional information from the folks at Cartoon Network…
… A special episode of the Cartoon Network Original Series We Bare Bears, featuring Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, premiering Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT). The episode, “Charlie Ball,” features characters voiced by the players. The “All-Star” episodes of Teen Titans Go! and We Bare Bears will replay on Cartoon Network throughout NBA All-Star weekend.
Cartoon Network continues its NBA All-Star 2016 celebration with special segments integrated into some of its leading television shows beginning on Thursday, Feb. 11. Through its popular CN Sayin’ app, Cartoon Network will provide kids with an opportunity to send questions via video submissions to their favorite NBA players. Select questions and responses will then be featured within Cartoon Network’s on-air integrations throughout NBA All-Star.
Sports-themed episodes of Cartoon Network series will be available on VOD and TVE. Highlights from the All-Star special episodes of We Bare Bears and Teen Titans Go! will be on Cartoon Network’s YouTube Channel, the Cartoon Network app, CartoonNetwork.com, as well as VOD.
Not being named to the 2016 All-Star Game was certainly disappointing, but being immortalized in an All-Star themed cartoon seems like a decent consolation prize.
PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers saw both a seven-game homestand and a five-game winning streak come to an end with a 110-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Thursday night at the Moda Center. What’s more, the win was Toronto’s first in Portland since the 2006-2007 season, ending Portland’s seven-game home winning streak versus the NBA’s lone Canadian squad.
“Toronto is a good team, I think that’s pretty obvious,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They’re a very good team and there’s a reason why they’re the second-best team or have the second-best record in the East. I thought we were close — obviously the first quarter getting behind (14) — but they shot the ball extremely well.”
With the loss, the Trail Blazers fall short of getting back to .500 for the first time since the second week of November. Portland is now 24-26 overall and 15-11 at home this season. The win moves the Raptors to 34-16 and is their 13th victory in their last 14 games.
While it wasn’t a wire-to-wire victory for the road team, the Trail Blazers’ lone lead came after less than a minute had elapsed in the first quarter. The Raptors would take a 14-point lead by the end of the quarter.
“Our first quarter defense wasn’t even close to being good enough, especially against a playoff team, a really good team like them” said Damian Lillard. “They shot the ball really well and we made a few mistakes that allowed them to get themselves going and start believing. You have to take your hat off to them, they;re a really good team and they brought a real challenge to us. Hopefully the next time we play them we’ll come out and have a better start.”
In a trend that would continue for the majority of the night, every time the Trail Blazers would succeed in cutting into the Raptors’ lead, Toronto, usually led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, were always able answer with a few timely baskets or defensive play to keep Portland at bay. Portland had a chance to cut Toronto’s lead to three with 35 seconds to play after a Lillard steal, but CJ McCollum couldn’t get the midrange shot on the ensuing fastbreak to fall.
“It’s a shot I hit nine out of 10, easily,” said McCollum. “Left it a little short. Can’t happen. End of the game, that’s a big possession, open shot, open look. I hit that then it’s a three-point game, 36 second left, don’t need to foul, we can play it out. It’s a good learning experience.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored just six points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half before finishing with 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. His first three-pointer, which didn’t come until the fourth quarter, made him just the third player in NBA history to make at least 125 three-pointers in each of his first four season. Lillard also added 11 assists for his 12th double-double of the season.
McCollum went 8-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three to finish with 21 points, six rebounds and two assists. Allen Crabbe scored 17 points off the bench and Gerald Henderson added 10 to round out Portland’s double-digit scorers. Henderson’s ninth point Thursday night gave him 6,000 points for his career.
Portland forward Maurice Harkless started Thursday’s game in place of Noah Vonleh, who sat out with a sprained left ankle, and finished with two points, two points, two blocks and a steal in 16 minutes.
Toronto’s starting backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan combined for 59 points on 21-of-44 shooting. Jonas Valanciunas put up a double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds. Portland native Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph each scored 12 points off the bench.
Next up, the Trail Blazers hit the road for the first time in nearly three weeks to take on the Rockets in Houston. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 pm.