This morning, Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears reported via unnamed source that Trail Blazers rookie C.J. McCollum, who has been sidelined since fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during training camp, will make his NBA debut “shortly after New Year’s Day“. Given that, I figured it would be a good idea to check in with McCollum after today’s shootaround in New Orleans to find out how he’s progressing after being cleared for full practice ten days ago. Here’s what he had to say about his return, including when he might see his first NBA minutes.
How are you feeling after a week of full practice?
“I feel pretty good. My legs are getting back underneath me, feel like I’m getting in a lot better shape, kind of getting my rhythm back and getting used to playing with the guys.”
What are some of the things you feel like you’ve lost after having to sit out the last few months and do you feel like those things are coming back?
“Just little things like the timing and kind of getting used to getting in different spots with the team and going through the plays and stuff like that. That’s the stuff you lose when you’re not playing. Where to pick and choose your spots from when scrimmaging and stuff like that.
“In terms of the rehab, I was on the court basically through the whole process so everything is kind of there still. Still got the jumpshots, still got the handle. The hardest stuff is just getting used to the speed because you set out for a little bit and you come back and you’re trying to come back in while everybody is in midseason form. That would be the only thing that’s an adjustment first when you go through practices, just the speed of everything, getting your shot off in traffic, stuff like that. But I don’t feel like it’s been too hard of a transition because I’ve been able to do a lot of stuff this time around.”
The team doesn’t practice much due to the number of games. Do you feel like you’re getting enough practice in?
“I’ve been getting a lot of gym time in. The live stuff, it fluctuates in terms of when we get to play three-on-three, four-on-four, five-on-five. Obviously when we have practice days coming off back-to-backs a lot of the starters don’t participate or are limited in their participation, so a lot of us get to play the four-on-four and the five-in-five stuff against each other. I usually get to the
gym early on game days and get a workout in before 3:30 PM or so. I’m still trying to stay sharp but obviously the more five-on-five I can play, the better.”
Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported today that you’ll make your NBA debut shortly after the New Year. Do you have a date in mind for your return?
“We’re going over stuff right now. Hopefully I’ll be back soon. I know there’s no definite date penciled in yet, but hopefully we can get one soon to kind of get it going.”
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.
But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.
“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”
Sounds about right.
Though it hasn’t been officially announced, news broke Monday that the Trail Blazers and CJ McCollum have agreed on a four-year maximum extension that will keep the combo guard out of Lehigh in Portland for the foreseeable future. A day later, McCollum joined Dan Sheldon and Aaron Fentress on 620 Rip City Radio to talk about signing the extension and his future in Portland, which you can listen to in its entirety below…
On when he found out that the extension was in the works..
“I found out a little while ago that we were in talks, we were discussing an extension this summer. I actually flew out to Las Vegas for a photo shoot with Nike around the time the Select Team was out there and my agent told me not to fly back to the east coast because I was supposed to fly back to Philly to watch my brother’s 3v3 tournament game. So once he told me to fly back to Oregon I had a pretty good idea things were going to be finalized shortly.”
On whether he was smiling on stage at Damian Lillard’s concert because he knew about the extension…
“I had a good idea they were in discussions and I was excited about the opportunity to extend my career with the Portland Trail Blazers. I love the city, I love the team and the organization. That smile was the combination of a lot of things.”
On why he didn’t hold out for any player options or trade kickers in his extension…
“I love the city and I’m happy here. I’ve actually been looking for homes since my rookie year but I was not going to buy because I’m a business man and I think it’s important you have a secure situation before you begin to make expensive purchases such as purchasing real estate. But I told my agent I like it here and I’m content. I like the situation I’m in, I like the staff and I’m happy to be here with no outs, no trade kickers, ect. I want to be here and I told him that. So I said ‘Do what you’ve got to do to get it done and have me here long term.’”
Regarding whether or not it will be difficult to wait a year before his new contract kicks in…
“No, no no. I do a really good job of keeping my team close. My business manager, my financial advisor, my agent, we do a great job of discussing financial situations and continue to play a budget. I’m just thankful to have the opportunity, but I’m not really counting down the clock or anything like that. This is a game I love dearly, this game is priceless. You can’t really put a price on this game I’ve played my entire life for free, it just so happens I’m fortunate enough to get a max contract and be able to play at the highest level and have a role that’s carved out. But the next step is to continue to get better and not worry about the money, not worry about the labels and all that stuff. You perform well on the court and everything else will fall into place. I don’t really have any dates set. I make good money now and obviously I’ll make great money later, but it’s all in good time. I just try to live in the present.”
How he plans on staying motivated with a max contract…
“I stay paranoid. That’s the thing that got me to this point is being paranoid, playing with a chip on your shoulder understanding that it’s more than just money, it’s more than just playing for a starting spot. You’re playing for your last name, you’re representing the organization, I’m representing Canton, Ohio every time I step on the court, I represent Lehigh University. Growing up my mom and dad always told me you play this game because you love it, you play it because it’s fun and the rest will fall into place and you just have to pretend every time you step on the court there’s a little kid watching you that’s never seen you play before. He’s never seen you play, he’s only heard stories about you and his only impression is going to be of how you perform that day. So that’s kind of how I carried myself and why I put so much time in, because I don’t want that little kid to be disappointed in me. I don’t want him to say ‘Ah man, CJ’s not as good as we thought, doesn’t play as hard as I thought he was going to play.’ I want him to say ‘Wow, he goes hard no matter what, he plays a total game, he plays unselfishly and he had fun doing it.’ So that’s the kind mark I want to leave and eventually when I have kids I want them to understand that I got here through hard work. Nothing was ever handed to me.”