Trail Blazers rookie guard CJ McCollum took questions from the media regarding breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot during practice on Saturday. McCollum spoke to the media while on crutches and with his left foot in a boot.
Lead us through how you suffered the injury.
We were, I’d say, halfway through the practice, going through a little ball screen defensive drill. Live action. Coming off a ball screen off the sideline, close sideline, I faced the hard edge, had a hard edge coming out. Went for the throwback pass, just natural instincts, and stepped on the foot. Rolled it … in. Knew there was some pain, had felt it. I’ve twisted my ankle worse before, so didn’t really know. I thought it was just a little sprain, crawled off. Then I walked. It’s funny. I actually walked to the shower, walked to get the X-Ray, and then just waited for the news.
Sounds like you were surprised?
Yeah. I was definitely surprised. Just looking forward to the next steps and trying to figure everything out. Talking to doctors now.
Is there a plan for surgery?
We’re in the midst of that now. I was actually just speaking to one of the doctors just now before I came (to this interview). I’m going to go back and talk to him. Just talk through different options now. But as soon as possible, if it’s necessary.
Have they said whether your first injury and this injury are related?
We’re still not sure yet. I haven’t actually seen it on tape yet. I just remember the play. I’m going to watch it on film and then talk to two outside doctors, get their perspective on it before we make our next decision.
How disappointing is it?
It’s very disappointing. Coming in your rookie, being selected in the lottery. You want to come in and play and kind of prove yourself, earn your stripes. I was having a good training camp. I was playing well. I had been here … and then you go down with an injury. It’s tough. But at the same time, I’ve been through obstacles before and I look forward to bouncing back.
You had not experienced any setbacks or any pain or discomfort at all before the injury?
No. No pain, no nothing. Actually, we do testing daily on both feet. We test our heart rates, we test our workload. I was one of the more even guys in terms of strength and distribution between both feet. I was pretty much equal. Whereas there’s a lot of imbalances between other guys on the team. But things happen. Sometimes it’s out of your control. You just have to make the best of what you’re given.
Do you have a sense of how long you’ll be out and how much time you’ll miss?
No sense at all. But I look forward to returning.
How difficult was rehab the first time?
You have no idea. It’s a tough process. Basketball is a lot easier than rehab. But the best thing is I’ve been through it before. I know what I’m getting into now. I kind of know what to do, I know what to expect and I just look forward to the challenge. It’s a challenge getting to the NBA and there’s going to be injuries, there’s going to be stuff. You can’t help it. Sometimes it’s going to happen. But you just have to bounce back and do what it takes to be successful.
When you got the X-rays, when you heard the results, what was your reaction, what went through your mind?
Tough feeling. I was just very distraught. You work so hard to get to this level — they say it’s less than two percent chance of making it to the NBA and you make it. Coming off an injury it’s tough to get hurt again but at the same time, I’m not even supposed to be here, so an injury is just the last thing I’m worried about.
Coming off the injury the first time how long did it take where you felt like you were back?
I’m not sure. We end up losing early at Lehigh. We end up losing early so I’m not sure if I would have been able to come or not just because of the situation I was in. But at the same time this is a different level now. You’re dealing with the best doctors in the world, the best training staff, the best facility. So I’m sure I’ll be okay.
How did they treat it the first time? Did you have a screw or anything inserted into the foot?
Yes I did have a screw in the foot.
So you had surgery to insert a screw and they removed that afterwards?
No, the screw is still in place. It’s still there. The screw is perfectly fine.
Complicates things the second time around?
No. No, I don’t think so.
After you finished the first rehab have you had any pain at all in the last couple months?
No. It’s ironic, no pain. As I said before, I actually did some testing in the morning. We always do random, he did random tests on both feet, explosion and how quickly you get off the floor, lateral quickness. I did all that stuff.
Who was with you when you heard the news?
I was by myself.
Pain this time around as opposed to last time?
It wasn’t the same. When I broke my foot at Lehigh it was … I cried it hurt so bad. I cried. Didn’t hurt as bad this time.
How important is it that you still be involved with the team?
I discussed that with Coach Terry, some of the other coaches as well. That’s the biggest thing for me. I told them to treat me like the rest of the players that are healthy. I want to continue to learn, I’m going to be on the court. I take this game very seriously in terms of taking care of my body, eating the right stuff, lifting, making sure that I’m watching film and doing all the things necessary to make sure when I come back it’s a smooth transition.
Where are the doctors you’ll have to visit for the second opinion?
There’s a really good doctor in California. There’s a really good doctor in Charlotte.
Having gone through rehab once before anything different you would do this time around?
I’m more prepared, more mature. I know what I’m getting myself into, whereas before it was more of an experiment. I had never been hurt, I had never missed a game in my life. Now I know what I’m getting myself into.
Less than 12 hours after being eliminated from the postseason, the Trail Blazers returned to their practice facility in Tualatin to meet with the coaches to discuss offseason plans, clean out their lockers and take questions from the media one last time before starting their vacations.
Here’s the audio and a few quotes from Terry Stotts and the players from today’s exit interviews…
On the 2015-16 season…
“Like I said last night, this has been a special season. This group of players, what they were able to do individually and collectively, our chemistry was really good. We had good guys, they got along, players and coaches. It means a lot and it goes both ways. It was a joy. I think players enjoyed coming to work every day and I know the coaches and staff did, too.”
On whether this was his most rewarding season as a head coach…
“No question. This was an extremely rewarding season because it kind of played out the way we wanted it to. And we’re not talking about the record or the playoffs, everything was about growth, improvement, getting better throughout the season and being better at the end of the season. I think we did that individually and collectively and from a coaching standpoint, that’s as pure as it gets. That’s what coaching is about. You don’t get to experience that very much at the NBA level.”
On whether he expects anyone on his staff to be interviewed for various open head coaching positions…
“I hope so. I can’t say enough about how good my staff is. I think Jay Triano and Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool are all ready to be considering for head coaching jobs. I think they’re all prepared to do a great job as a head coach depending on whatever a team is looking for. I hope they get consideration because they’re all very deserving.
On many of his teammates deciding to stay in Portland during the offseason…
“That means a lot because I stay here every summer. I’m used to coming in here like ‘I wonder when everybody else coming back to town,’ you know what I mean? The trainers are here, the coaches are here and it’s an empty gym. And even after the game last night, on the plane, I started getting worried already. I was sitting on the plane like ‘Man, we had some success this year, it was unexpected it was no pressure. Next year people gonna expect a little bit more’ and I started to get worried about too many pats on the back. ‘They weren’t supposed to do this but they did that.’ I started getting worried, but we don’t have those kind of guys. We’ve got hungry guys, we’ve got humble guys that work hard. We had a taste this season as a young group of how well we could do and what it takes. We lost to a really experienced, championship team. That makes me happy to hear that so many guys are going to be here working out in the summer because that lets me know that they see how close we are and they see how important it’s going to be going forward.”
On free agency and having a say in the process…
“I’m pretty sure they’ll communicate what the plans are with me, but like I’ve said in the past, my job is to be a good teammate, to make sure I put in my time and become a better player and that’s what I’ll do. They ask me my opinion on something, I’ll give them my honest opinion, but I love all the guys that we have on our roster now. I think going forward, if we continue to grow together, we’ll be a good team. Obviously it’s a business and rosters change, players make decisions for themselves, so when that time comes, we’ll see what happens. But when they come to me ask for my opinion or what I think about something, I’ll tell them what I think.”
On what he’s looking for as a restricted free agent…
“Any pay raise is going to be significantly higher than what I’m making now. But like I said earlier, it’s just situation really for me. It doesn’t make sense to make a lot of money and go to a team that, if you don’t fit that system, then get paid a lot of money to be frustrated? That doesn’t make sense to me. The culture here, it’s great. I know this organization well, I know the system, know the coaches, players. It’s just real comfortable here. I wouldn’t mind being here, I really wouldn’t. It’s really just coming down to situation and how I can continue to improve as a basketball player.”
On head coach Terry Stotts…
“Definitely think he should get an extension. I feel like everybody here knows that he should get an extension. He’s done a great job with this team. It’s really hard to put into words what he did with this group because nobody expected us to do what we did. Even from Day One, even through the games where we were 11-20, seven-game losing streak, he never folded and he always told us it’s all about trusting the process and we stuck with that throughout this whole year.”
On spending time in Portland this offseason…
“I think, for one, it doesn’t rain a lot in the summer, so that helps. Just being around the facility, 24 hour access, you’re able to get a lot of things done without a distraction. You go home, you go to certain cities, you either got to pay to get in the gym or you’ve got to worry about people interrupting you while you workout. I go back to my high school but sometimes I’ve got to just like lock the door so I can just workout and not have to worry about certain interruptions because you can’t get through a full workout when people are coming in, talk to you. It’s meant to be a compliment to you, it’s hard. So I think it helps that here, you just come in, the doors are locked, you’ve got your finger scan, you workout when you want, the weather is nice. You’re paying rent here anyway, so it makes sense.”
On the camaraderie of the roster and the changes that might be in store…
“I think we had a really unique group. They did a great job of putting together like minds, young guys who are easy to talk to. Nobody is really arrogant or overly cocky. We’ve got some ignorant guys on the team that you guys guys know who’s outlandish with his statements. I won’t put him out there, he knows who he is. Besides that, we all got along well, everybody spoke their minds, nobody was afraid to say certain things. If somebody played bad, if somebody wasn’t doing things the right way, you could address it and nobody would frown or look at you the wrong way. So I like the way our team is put together, I like the work ethic everybody had. This is one of the rare teams where you could hang out with players off the court. Everybody’s got their friends, but I could hang out with any one of the 15 guys off the court and be perfectly comfortable, eat dinner, et cetera… We’ve got a really good unit and a lot of guys made themselves some money this year, a lot of guy’s prices went up. Hopefully we can rekindle the flame, but if not, we had a good run, we had a good year together collectively and wish everybody the best of luck in the free agency process.
On how he’s approaching restricted free agency…
“To be honest with you, I haven’t had a real concrete conversation with my agent about this. I wanted it to be, right now, about my rehab and about supporting the guys, being there however I could, I guess more from an emotional standpoint, for the team. I certainly wish I could have been out there. With that being said, I’m sure we’ll talk within the next couple of days about how we’re going to really approach this, the timing of things, I suppose what teams are interested, what teams would maybe like to meet in person. I don’t have a concrete plan at this point. Restricted free agency, it gets a little hairy, it takes time, teams maybe don’t want to tie their money up. I honestly don’t know all the ins and outs of it. Like I said before the season when I didn’t accept an extension, I’m confident in where I’m at. It’s my agent’s job to present whatever he has on his mind and what’s on my plate from that side of things. My job right now is simply to rehab my shoulder, continue to work on my leg strength, which is a huge focus of mine for this summer, and just figure out different way in the weight room or out here, even simple things as ball handling, just trying to improve as a player and as a man.”
On why he’s going to spend much of the offseason in Portland…
“I’m coming back to Portland just because went through all that rain, got to enjoy some of the sun. I like it here. I’m renting a spot, so I’m just going to stay here. I like Todd (Forcier) and BK (Ben Kenyon) and those guys, so definitely going to put a lot of work in in the weight room. It’s always good vibes here so I don’t think guys want to get away. Some teams, you want to get away just because you don’t like certain people. It’s not like that here. I enjoyed being here so that’s why I’m going to stick around and do most of my training out here.”
On the realities of keeping a roster with multiple free agents together…
“It’s going to be tricky with all the salary cap stuff going on. I think a lot of the guys who are free agents definitely raised their value. I think everyone did. You never know. I hope all those guys get paid well, I think they will. They deserve it. You just never know with free agency, who they go after and things like that, but I hope everybody comes back, but that’s not really realistic. It doesn’t really work like that in the league. I just tried to enjoy that time yesterday because I’ve been around a little bit and I know how the business side of things work.”
On his mindset going into the offseason…
“This summer is big for me, become more of a scoring threat. I think there’s a lot to be added. I look forward, if the opportunity is there, to come back to have some stability from a staff perspective. I would look forward to coming back to a similar situation from one season to the next. I’ve played for three coaches in three years, so I think that would be something I’d look forward to as well… Once you’ve been traded, you never know.”
On being a restricted free agent…
“Free agency is something I haven’t really thought about. I’ve tried not to think about it during the season and we just finished yesterday, so it hasn’t really been on my mind yet. It’s something that we’ll have to think about soon.”
On his first season in Portland…
I loved it. It was by far the most fun season I’ve had. These guys here are great, the organization is great. I really, really enjoyed it and looking forward to seeing what happens this summer.”
On his first season in Portland…
“It’s the most fun year I think I’ve had as a pro. We had a great group of guys, high character guys, silly guys and it was a fun year. That’s without even being on the court. On the court, we had a special group. We came together halfway through, really made it a special year all the way until last night when we’re playing against the champions, gave them all we had. Played a tough series, obviously it didn’t end the way that we wanted it to, but it’s a year we’re all proud of.”
His thoughts on entering free agency and what he’s looking for…
This is my second time doing it and it’ll be a little different than the first time. I think getting a taste of what this year and this postseason was like and how much fun, how competitive it is, I think, number one, being on a team that’s a winning team. It’s obviously tough to get on one of the elite elite teams, but that could be a possibility. That could easily be a possibility here. Being on a team that is about winning and that’s a good fit for me.
On his first season with the Trail Blazers…
“It was an amazing journey of growth. We grew a lot throughout the season, personally and as a team. It was just fun to be a part of it.”
How he looks back on the season in terms of enjoyment…
The season was great. Any time you have guys that are the same age, it just makes it a lot easier to get along. It’s easy to have relatable points, different things like that. A lot of us are going through similar things in our careers so you get to relate on that note. When it came to comfortably in that sense, it was just unbelievable. And then I think that’s why the chemistry was there as well. Even our vets and the older guys like Chris Kaman, they were a joy to be around as well. From top to bottom, everybody was kind of in that same wavelength of what they were trying to do. It just made it easy to get along.
Both the Trail Blazers and Warriors are getting good injury news just a few hours before Game Four of their Western Conference semifinal series starts later tonight at the Moda Center (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on TNT and 620 AM).
On the home side, Trail Blazers starting forward Maurice Harkless is listed as probable for Game Four despite suffering a right hip contusion on Game Two. Harkless tried to play through the injury, starting in Portland’s Game Three victory on Saturday at the Moda Center. Though he started the game, the 6-9 forward was severely limited and would go on to play less than seven minutes in the win.
But after sitting out most of Game Three and resting on Sunday’s off day, Harkless said at Trail Blazers shootaround Monday morning that he was feeling better and optimistic about his chances of playing come Game Four.
“I tried not to do too much on the court but I did some running around, moving around, side to side stuff in the weight room,” said Harkless. “It felt pretty good so I’m going to try to do stuff on the court and participate in the whole shootaround, see how I feel.”
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts wouldn’t give any indication as to whether Harkless would start Game Four if he is in fact able to play. It’s possible either Gerald Henderson or Allen Crabbe, who both saw significant minutes increases in Game Three with Harkless sidelined, could start in Harkless’ place even if he’s healthy enough to play Monday night.
“I’m going to try to go either way, but I don’t want to be a detriment to the team,” said Harkless. “Obviously if I can’t move well enough, I’m sure Coach will take me out.”
The situation with the Warriors and Stephen Curry, though improving, is not nearly as cut and dried. Curry, who has been sidelined since straining his right MCL on April 24, has been upgraded to questionable for Game Four, though his availability won’t be decided until later Monday afternoon.
“(Curry) went through shootaround and he felt pretty good,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “We’ll see, he’s going to get treatment again this afternoon.”
Kerr said it was possible Curry, the reigning MVP, could come off the bench even if he’s available to play in Game Four, as he’s only played 39 minutes in Golden State’s last eight games between his current MCL and an ankle injury in Game One that kept him out of most of the Warriors’ first round series versus the Rockets.
But regardless of if Curry plays, the Trail Blazers say their preparation or game plan doesn’t much change.
“We’ve played against them enough times to where we know how we will guard him,” said Damian Lillard. “Our approach is the same either way. Coverages change when different guys come into the game, so that wouldn’t be a tough adjustment. We would guard him different than we would guard Shaun Livingston, we would guard (Leandro) Barbosa different than we would guard Livingston. It changes anyway, so when he comes back, we’ll just make that adjustment when he’s in the game. When somebody goes in for him, we’ll go back to what we’ve been doing these first couple games.”
Despite being a heavy underdog, the Portland Trail Blazers evened their best-of-seven first round playoff series by winning Game Four versus a relatively healthy Los Angeles Clippers squad. The same could not be said of the team the Trail Blazers will face in Game Five Wednesday night at Staples Center.
The Clippers announced Tuesday afternoon that starting point guard Chris Paul would be out for at least the next four weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured third metacarpal in his right hand, an injury he suffered in the third quarter of Portland’s 98-84 victory in Game Four. Paul, a nine-time All-Star and arguably the best point guard in the NBA, averaged 23.8 points on 49 percent shooting, 7.3 assists, 4.0 assists and 2.3 steals while playing stellar defense on Portland’s guards in the first four games of the series.
“My job as a coach is to figure out a way of getting us up and ready for Game Five,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “There’s nobody, probably in the league, that’s going to replace Chris Paul so there’s nobody clearly on our team that’s going to do it. As a group everybody pitches in.”
While the Clippers stopped short of listing Paul out for the entire playoffs, saying instead that he would be reevaluated in four to six weeks, that timeline assures the 6-3 veteran point guard out of Wake Forest will miss the rest of the series versus Portland.
To make matters worse for Rivers, it was also announced that Blake Griffin would miss the rest of the postseason with a left quad injury that has dogged the All-Star power forward for much of the season. Griffin also suffered his injury in the third quarter of Game Four.
“I could feel it,” said Griffin after Game Four. “Hopefully in the next 24-48 hours you turn a corner and feel better, so I’m not really concentrated on how it felt tonight, that’s kind of expected after you tweak something.”
Griffin had an MRI on his left quad Tuesday, which showed no new damage, but the aggravation was evidently serious enough to sideline the five-time All-Star. He played in just 35 games this season due to dealing with a partially torn left quad and a broken hand. Griffin averaged 15.0 points on 38 percent shooting, 8.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 31.8 minutes during the 2016 postseason.
Rivers will likely look to some combination of Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and Pablo Prigioni to fill in for Paul, while Jeff Green, who started 10 games for the Clippers after being traded midseason from the Grizzlies, while likely pick up Blake’s minutes. Rivers and Green are listed as probable starters in place of Paul and Griffin, respectively, according to the newest version of L.A.’s game notes.
“We’re going home, all they’ve done is win two games at home just like we won two games at home,” said Rivers. “We’ve been in adverse situations all year with guys out but guys have come through and I expect us to do that at our place.”