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.
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.”
And we’re back. Less than 12 hours after the Trail Blazers defeated the Clippers at the Moda Center in Game Four to knot the first round series at two games apiece, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the studio for the second time in 24 hours to record another edition of the Rip City Report, hot off the mp3 presses…
On this edition, we discuss Portland’s win in Game Four, the monumental shift in the series due to Chris Paul breaking a bone in his right hand, other Clippers injuries and how they affect the series going forward, Portland seizing momentum and whether or not they’re now the favorites, the slump-busting performances of Al-Farouq Aminu and Allen Crabbe, Terry Stotts finishing second in Coach of the Year voting and answer your Twitter questions regarding adjustments, reporting taboos, the “Rip City” jerseys and whether CP3’s alternate egos are prepared to step in. It really is a new day.
While none of the Trail Blazers would go so far as to call Game Three of their first round playoff series versus the Los Angeles Clippers a must-win, they all knew the reality of what it means to go down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series. No NBA team has ever come back from that deficit to advance to the next round, and the way the first two games went, it would be hard to argue the Trail Blazers would be the first team to do so.
So late in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s game at the Moda Center, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard got his teammates together and asked them a question. He probably already knew the answer, but he asked the question just the same, as there is little room for error or ambiguity when going up against a formidable opponent while trailing in a playoff series.
“Everybody’s season is on the line right now,” said Lillard. “I think there was about two minutes left and there was like a dead ball and I huddled the guys up and I said ‘Are y’all ready to go home? If we don’t finish this out, that’s where we’re going to be headed.’”
Lillard evidently got the answer he was looking for, as the Trail Blazers closed out Game Three on a 15-1 run to come away with a 96-88 victory and force at least a Game Five in Los Angeles. He didn’t raise his voice any higher than he need to be heard over the sound of the Moda Center crowd, didn’t make any bold proclamations about their potential legacies being sullied or their season before for naught. He just asked a simple question and received equally simple responses.
“We were just talking to each other, all calm,” said Maurice Harkless of the late-game huddle. “There was emotion in the words, but we weren’t yelling at each other. We were just talking to each other… We all were like, ‘We’ve got to win this game, we gonna do whatever it takes to win.'”
For Harkless, that meant turning two offensive rebounds into two putback dunks in the final minutes of the game. For Mason Plumlee, it was keeping DeAndre Jordan off the boards. And for CJ McCollum, it was hitting a three-pointer that started Portland’s game-ending run.
“He just said what everybody was thinking: We ain’t trying to go home yet,” said CJ McCollum. “‘We’re up right now but we’ve got to make sure we close this game out, don’t get too comfortable. Finish the game and then go home and rest.'”
Which is what they did, and what they’ll now be able to do before Game Four on Monday at the Moda Center.