McCollum Makes First Pro Impact In Win Against Celtics

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 years ago

The Portland Trail Blazers have followed a familiar script recently at the Moda Center. It goes something like this: Trail by double digits to a team from the Eastern Conference with a much worse record than their own by allowing said team to shoot a ridiculous percentage from the field, pull to within singled digits by halftime, draw even closer in the third before pulling away in the fourth for a relatively drama-free victory.

Such was the case Saturday night at the Moda Center, with the Trail Blazers defeating the Boston Celtics, a team on an extended losing streak playing on the second night of a back-to-back, 112-104 in front of a sellout crowd of 20,011.

“Well, it’s always good to get a win,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. You try not to be disappointed about not playing necessarily as well as you wanted to. Offensively, we were good and defensively, we were good when we need to be. But this stretch of playing teams with a lesser record, apparently is tough for us to get up for. But in the end, it was good to get the win.”

The Celtics shot 70 percent from the field in the first quarter, thanks in large part to Boston point guard Avery Bradley scoring 13 points on six of seven shooting in the first 12 minutes of the game, and took a 32-27 lead into the second quarter.

“I think there were some missteps and miscues on the first half,” said Robin Lopez. “That’s something that has kind of been haunting us the past few games. We still need to go back and correct those.”

The Trail Blazers improved in the second quarter on both sides of the ball, outscoring Boston 31-28 while holding the Celtics to 55 percent shooting in the quarter. The combination of improved, if not stellar, defense and better shots resulted in Portland trailing 60-58 going into halftime.

Portland would continue plugging away after the intermission, using a 13-0 run midway through the third quarter to take their first lead, one they would never relinquish, at the 7:33 mark on a Wesley Matthew three-pointer. The Trail Blazers would finish the quarter by taking a 90-86 lead into the fourth and would fight off numerous small runs by the Celtics to eventually come away with an eight-point victory for their 29th win of the season.

Portland is now 8-3 at home when trailing at halftime.

“We need to play better, that’s all it is,” said Wesley Matthews, who finished with 18 points on five of 12 shooting, five rebounds and three assists. “We’re happy we won but we’re not happy in the way we won. We’re happy how we got it eventually but we want to be elite, call ourselves elite, we’ve got to play like it and act like it.”

CJ McCollum, playing in just his second game as a pro, went four of six from the field to finish with 10 points in 14 minutes.

“I felt pretty good,” said McCollum. “I got into a rhythm early. Guys did a good job of moving the ball tonight, put me in a position to score. I told them before the game I was going to be more aggressive. I was just trying to feel out the first game and kind of see where I fit in there, but I’m going to play like I do in practice, I’m going to continue to be aggressive and not only look for my shot but look to kind of get in the lane and create different things.”

The first-year guard out of Lehigh hit his first three shots, including two three-pointers, and finished with a rebound and an assist.

“He was terrific,” said Stotts of McCollum. “He kept us afloat in the first half. He came in aggressive and he looked for his shots. Those two threes, I thought they did a good job of closing out on him and he still focuses and made the shots. It seemed like he was much more comfortable than he was in his first game.”

“I haven’t even displayed my total game yet,” said McCollum. “It’s still coming along. If you guys could see practice you could see a different version of me. But I’m just continuing to work hard and put myself in a position to be successful every night.”

The Trail Blazers got double doubles from both LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points, 13 rebounds, four assists) and Lopez (15 points, 13 rebounds), who also tied a career-high in offensive rebounds with nine.

Nicolas Batum flirted early with what would have been his second-consecutive triple-double but finished the night with 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes.

Damian Lillard would finish with 15 points and Mo Williams added 11 off the bench. All told, seven Trail Blazers scored in double figures.

“A lot of times, L.A. will have 30 points, I’ll have 20 points and Wes will have 17 or 18,” said Lillard, “but today it was everybody that contributed to the win. We needed it. We didn’t have our greatest shooting night and we got off to a slow start defensively, so it was important for everybody to put in. If we can have slow nights like tonight and everybody steps up and contributes, it’s going to be big for us down the road.”

Next up, the Trail Blazers host the Cavaliers on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.

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VIDEO: McCollum Brothers Talk Tournament, Who’s Mom’s Favorite on ESPN

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 hours ago

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.

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Stotts Talks Super Teams And Suits On The Doug Gottlieb Show

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.

You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…

On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”

On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”

On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”

His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”

On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”

On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”

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McCollum Talks Extension And Staying Hungry On Rip City Radio

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
6 days ago

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…

A few choice quotes from the 20 minute interview…

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.”

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