On Thursday morning, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum joined The Jim Rome Show to discuss his performance at summer league, interviewing NBA commissioner Adam Silver, his radio show on Sirius XM, his advice to incoming NBA players, his brother Erick playing for the Nuggets summer league team and visiting Ireland in the offseason.
You’re putting up big numbers in the summer league, 28 points on Tuesday, you went 6 for 9 from deep. How good did that feel?
CJ McCollum: It felt pretty good to get into a nice rhythm. Obviously it is summer league, but you still want to come out and have a good showing in front of all the NBA personnel, mainly your own staff. So I was happy I was able to come away with a good game.
What is summer league like exactly? How competitive is it? How hard to guys go? Break it down, what’s that competition like?
CJ McCollum: It’s definitely very competitive. There are a lot of guys in a position where they’re competing for roster spots, they’re competing for minutes. And then there’s a lot of incoming rookies who are kind of trying to prove themselves and showcase their games. It’s definitely very competitive and you want to take full advantage of the opportunity because this is a rare chance for you to play in front of all 30 teams. At some point, a lot of us will be free agents. And then for those guys who are under contract, you want to put on a good show for your staff.
It’s interesting you say that already. You can already see down the road, like you’re playing some chess already that you’re setting these things up. I bring that up because it’s the way you’ve approached it — I’ll get into that in just a moment — but you’re also taking advantage of certain things off the floor already. Shortly before this year’s draft you actually sat down and interviewed the commissioner, Adam Silver. You spoke with him when he was the incoming commissioner. Was he any different now that he’s “the man?”
CJ McCollum: I don’t know. He seemed the same, actually. He’s a very candid person who, obviously he’s very intelligent, but very loyal and thoughtful person. This is a commissioner in the NBA taking time to allow me, a rookie at the time and this year a second-year player, to interview him the day of the draft. Honestly, it’s probably one of the busiest days of the year for him and he took the time to sit down with me for about 28 minutes and give me a very thoughtful, insightful interview just taking about a range of topics from draft age to the Donald Sterling situation all the way to big markets versus small markets.
So let’s talk about a couple of those things. You talked about the Sterling situation. What do you make of the way he handled it and then how he explained it in your interview with him?
CJ McCollum: I thought he handled it very swiftly. Obviously he wanted to get all the information and the facts before he made a decision but I think that ultimately he got advice from different owners and GMs around the NBA and I think what he did was very smart, because obviously you want to protect the players at the same time you want to protect the fans and the organization and make sure you’re putting them in a position to where everybody is kind of happy.
How unhappy would everybody had been had he not acted as swiftly as he did and how big of an issue do you think that would have been around the league?
CJ McCollum: I think it would have been a huge issues. Obviously, if you look back at the time, you see some of the players beginning the protest with the inside out shooting shirts and then their were rumors they were going to refuse to play a game, and that could get real testy during playoff time. That could cost, not only each team, but the NBA itself a lot of money if teams refuse to play. And I think that the Golden State Warriors and the Clippers were in a position where they were going to refuse to play.
Portland guard CJ McCollum joining us. You mention draft age. You went to four years of college at Lehigh, so what do you make of his argument for raising the minimum age of the draft to 20 years?
CJ McCollum: I think he has some very interesting points. Obviously they’re in a discussion with college basketball. The NCAA is over a lot of control for the players, they control a lot of things. I was a different case. I was a different situation where I wasn’t ready to go pro early. I needed time to develop, time to prove myself and kind of put myself into the draft having not been a McDonald’s All-American or a top five-star recruit in high school. I believe it’s situational. Some players are ready and I believe some players don’t necessarily need college, but the worst thing that can happen with a guy going back to school is an injury. Otherwise, they’re going to develop and the NBA is going to get more time to pick their games apart. So I think it’s a sticky situation for the players.
CJ, I don’t know to many guys that can come into the league and handle a radio show as a rookie the way you did, but you hosted your own since the middle of the season, a weekly radio program. How did that go for you and what was that experience like?
CJ McCollum: It was very great for me. It was special opportunity that Sirius XM Radio gave me, channel 217 on the NBA Channel. I did it from 6 to 7 Eastern and basically talked about a variety of topics like yourself. Talk about current events, obviously, basketball, etc. Then I moved on to some of my off the court topics like TV shows, things I like to do in my spare time — I like to shop — talked about different cities. But it was a great opportunity. I’m still putting some things together for them that hopefully I can continue the sponsorship and continue to take advantage of the opportunity.
Was it easier than you thought or was it more challenging than you thought?
CJ McCollum: At first it’s challenging because you’ve never been on radio for a long period of time. I’ve done interview that are 10 to 15 minutes, but never been on a show for an hour. But when you have a co-host, it makes things a lot easier. Obviously Justin Termine, my co-host, and then you get more comfortable with it and then you kind of want more time. That hour goes very quickly if you have a variety of topics. I think that shows, whether or not the show it good, whether you hit every topic of not.
That’s good, that means you prepped it. When you and I spot last year we talked about your goal of beating that 4.7 years, the average career length. You recently wrote a piece for Basketball Insiders reflecting on your first year in the NBA. What’s the most important thing that you now know that you didn’t know when you first arrived in the NBA?
CJ McCollum: The most important thing I know now? I just think that you have to really be mentally tough. Obviously, coming into the NBA, people tell you you have to be mentally tough, you’ve got to work on your game, etc., etc. The biggest thing for me is that you’re going to face obstacles, I think it’s more about how you recover, how you bounce back from failure. Everybody does well with success and they’re happy being in the limelight but I think you’re judged more so on how you bounce back. Obviously I went through an injury and my rookie year wasn’t how I envisioned it, but at the same time, I think that it will show character and show poise when I’m able to recover and have a good year next year.
What about that challenge? You broke your foot as a senior, then you re-broke it again at training camp. Had to be a frustrating time. How did you push through that?
CJ McCollum: I had a great supporting cast. Obviously my family had been in my corner throughout my entire life. They helped me get through it. Our training staff was tremendous. We have one of the best training staffs in the NBA and they took the time to kind of analyze my body, break everything down and put me in a position to recover and not only get back to where I was but recover and become a better player. That was the biggest thing for me, I wanted to recover and become a better player, kind of learn from everything I’ve been through the last couple of years.
I thought you had a great piece of advice for rookies. You said “My advice is to check your bank account statements and actually read over your monthly cash flow. Every time you post a picture on Instagram or Twitter you should probably also take the time to check your accounts online.” Talk about the challenge that a young player has coming from college into the NBA where all the sudden you have all that money and you’ve never had money, you don’t really understand financial statements and how to read them.
CJ McCollum: It’s a very different type of situation. I talked about it in my piece for Basketball Insiders. You go from managing about $5,000 a semester for small school budget to getting maybe sixty, seventy thousand dollars a month, maybe more depended on where you’re selected in the draft. So you’re in a position where you have this outstanding amount of money, you have people coming at you left and right who want to be your financial advisor, people who want to advise you and kind of tell you want to do with your money and you kind of listen to different people because you’ve never had this much money before, so you’re trying to take all the advice you can get. But the biggest thing is you have to really take full responsibility on managing your money yourself. Making sure that you’re checking your statement and actually reading over your cash flows. You’d be surprised how many players have somebody managing their money but at the same time they’re not really looking over or paying any attention to the statements.
It seems to me you have to find that one or two people. You have to build your team and you have that circle of trust because then they will screen all those other things our for you if they have your back, but you’ve still got to select the first couple of people that can run that for you, run the interference for you. I know your point is don’t hand it over to somebody else, do it yourself, but how do you find the initial people to build your group with? How do you know who you can trust when you’re first starting out?
CJ McCollum: It’s a difficult process. Obviously you have to go through extensive background checks and have people in your family, people in your inner circle you trust sit down with you and give you feedback. The biggest thing is you have to give somebody trust and give them a chance to lose your trust or earn your trust. I think that’s the biggest thing. Give them a chance to prove themselves and, at the end of the day, if you’re checking over your stuff and you’re on top of it, if they make a mistake, you’ll see it. And if you have somebody from the outside looking over everything as well, kind of reviewing things, then you’ll be able to point out any mistakes and you can go from there.
Your older brother Errick has been playing ball in Greece. He had a great year, it attracted some attention and now he’s playing for Denver in the summer league. How is he doing and what’s it like for you to see him get that shot?
CJ McCollum: I’m happy he’s finally got a chance to play in the NBA summer league. Obviously I’d like to see him get more minutes, but he’s in a situation where he’s behind two guys that Denver actually drafted, Erick Green last year and Gary Harris this year. I’m definitely happy for him. It’s an opportunity that he’s wanted to take advantage of once he gets the proper minutes. But at the same time, he has a lot of very lucrative offers in Europe and China that he’s ready to take advantage of if and when that time comes.
Earlier this offseason you took a trip to Ireland. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, I’ve never gotten there. How’d that go for you and what types of things did you get up to?
CJ McCollum: It was great. I really enjoyed my time in Ireland. It was a chance for me to kind of get away from basketball a little bit. Being a second-year player, you’re in your city for basically all summer, maybe a couple weeks off, so it was time for me to get away. I was able to see some really nice sights like the Cliffs of Moher. If you haven’t heard of it you can look it up on Google. It’s very nice, along with some other sights. I kind of took some tours with my girlfriend. We went around a little bit and took tours of different places. I was happy I was able to get away and I would definitely recommend you take the time to go there.
(Audio provided courtesy of The Jim Rome Show)
The NBA’s July moratorium isn’t even over yet, so we’re still a ways away from knowing what Portland’s roster will look like come the start of the 2016-17 regular season. But there is no such mystery, at least not anymore, regarding who the Trail Blazers will be taking to Las Vegas.
On Tuesday, the team announced their 2016 Summer League roster and as expected, current Trail Blazers Noah Vonleh, Pat Connaughton, Cliff Alexander and Luis Montero are all on the team, as is rookie second round Jake Layman out of Maryland, who was acquired from the Magic during the 2016 Draft for a future second round pick and cash considerations. As for the rest of the roster, it’s rounded out with undrafted rookies, players who recently saw time in the D-League and overseas and even a few familiar faces…
Both Johnsons (no relation) have had previous runs with the Trail Blazers, with the lanky Chris playing a combined 30 games over the course of two seasons in Portland while Omari, a former Oregon State Beaver, was a training camp invite in 2015. There are other recognizable names on Portland’s summer league roster, from Pierre Jackson, who seemed to be on the cusp of cracking the NBA before blowing out his Achilles in a summer league game back in 2014, to Stacy Davis, who finished his career at Pepperdine as their all-time leading scorer, to Russ Davis, who won a national championship with Louisville in 2013. Assistant coaches Dale Osbourne, David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts will share head coaching duties (as is often the case at summer league).
Though many of these players, if not all of them, have been working out at the team’s facility in Tualatin, summer league practices officially run from July 6th through July 8th, with their first game scheduled for July 9th at 1 pm versus the Phoenix Suns at COX Pavilion on the campus of UNLV. That game, along with their contests versus the Spurs on the 10th, the Jazz on the 12th and whenever and whoever they play in the summer league tournament, will be broadcast on NBA TV.
LAS VEGAS — The Portland Trail Blazers completed pool play at the Las Vegas Summer League Tuesday afternoon with a 79-75 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at COX Pavilion on the campus of UNLV. With the loss, the Trail Blazers move to 1-2 at summer league, meaning they’ll start tournament play Wednesday at 7:30 pm versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Trail Blazers had a chance to tie the game late in regulation, but rookie Pat Connaughton’s baseline jumper missed the mark with 4.3 seconds to play, tipping the scales in San Antonio’s favor.
“It’s a learning experience,” said Connaughton, who was selected with the 41st pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Nets before being traded to Portland. “Whenever you lose a game, you’ve got to learn from it. The last shot is something I’ll think about for a while, but it’s not just the last shot. I was more or less disappointed in myself on being short on the majority of shots I missed. The ones I made, I wasn’t short. As a shooter, you never want to be short and the end shot was just a little short as well. It’s a matter of trying not to think about shooting it, you’ve got to just shoot it. You’ve got to trust in yourself and it’s something I’ll learn from moving forward. The older guys have done a great job helping me with that and a phenomenal job to draw up the last play for me.”
Connaughton finished with 8 points on 4-of-9 shooting, seven rebounds and a steal in 25 minutes. Dale Osbourne, who handled head coaching duties for the Blazers Tuesday afternoon after Nate Tibbetts ran the first two games, said Connaughton turned in his best defensive performance of the summer league, though that effort might have played a part in the 6-5 shooting guard missing what would have been a game-tying jumper.
“Noah Vonleh set a good screen and Pat was wide open,” said Osbourne. “Pat’s young, he plays hard. This was probably the first game he understands what it means about locking and sprinting and chasing guys around screens, so he expended a lot of energy on the defensive end, kind of lost his legs a little bit in the second half. But he’s going to be fine, very coachable and works hard.”
While Connaughton hitting what ended up being Portland’s final shot of the game would have put the Trail Blazers in a better position to come away with the victory, it was in no way the reason they lost the game. That honor goes to turnovers. The Trail Blazers gave the ball away 22 times, which the Spurs turned into 24 points, or roughly a third of their total Tuesday afternoon.
“That hurt,” said Osborne. “That’s a good team, they do a good job executing. When you look at the stat sheet, our defense was really good, but you can’t give a team like that opportunities to score and score and score. That kind of hurt us. It’s a learning process, obviously we’re a young team and we’ll continue to get better.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Noah Vonleh, who turned in yet another quality performance Tuesday with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 shooting from the free throw line to go with eight rebounds and an assist. Vonleh hurt his right knee in the second half, but said post-game that he planned on playing in Wednesday’s contest.
Allen Crabbe went 7-for-13 from the field for 15 points, two rebounds and two assists, though he turned the ball over a game-high seven times in 31 minutes.
Malcolm Thomas went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and 3-of-6 from the free throw line to finish with 15 points and four rebounds off the bench. Tim Frazier added eight points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes.
The Spurs were led by Kyle Anderson, who shot just 5-of-14 from the field but went 9-of-12 from the line to finish with 19 points in 29 minutes.
Though it comes one day late, Noah Vonleh is ready to make his summer league debut as Portland Trail Blazer.
After sitting out Portland’s 85-76 loss to the Boston Celtics Saturday night in the Trail Blazers’ 2015 Las Vegas Summer League opener with a sore left ankle, Vonleh, a 6-10 power forward out of Indiana, will play in Sunday night’s game versus the Dallas Mavericks at COX Pavilion on the campus of UNLV.
“I went through shootaround yesterday, I felt really good,” said Vonleh, who the Blazers acquired along with Gerald Henderson from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Nicolas Batum. “I went through it this morning and I’m feeling even better, so I’m definitely going to play tonight.”
There is probably more interest among Trail Blazers fans in Vonleh than any other player on Portland’s summer league roster. Not only is he new to the team, but after playing in just 25 games during his rookie season in Charlotte, Vonleh is still a relative unknown. And while summer league performances aren’t typically a great gauge of how skilled a particular player is, the book on Vonleh is so small that any game reps, even in Las Vegas, could prove enlightening even in a guard-dominated environment.
“I don’t think that limits me,” said Vonleh of the guard-heavy play at summer league. “I’m a real versatile player. In high school and college I played on the wing so I’m used to covering guards and using our versatility. I like when teams go small, it just creates a mismatch problem for me on the other end.”
The addition of Vonleh to Portland’s summer league rotation comes at just the right time, as the Trail Blazers gave up 15 offensive rebounds to a much smaller Celtics team in Saturday night’s loss. One assumes Vonleh, who looks to have added quite a bit of muscle since his rookie season, will be able to help in that regard.
“Last night the Celtics were just playing real hard against us, they were beating us on the boards,” said the 19-year old Vonleh. “They had a small lineup in, so it was crazy how they were beating us on the boards but we picked it up in the second half. I think it’s going to translate to the game later tonight. We’re going to be aggressive on the boards and try to stop second-chance points.”
Vonleh also gives Portland another big to throw the ball to in the paint, something they did too infrequently in the first half of Saturday night’s loss.
“I think we needed to get that first game under our belt,” said Allen Crabbe, who scored 15 points before fouling out Saturday night. “During the minicamp that we had, we were playing against each other and everybody knows the plays, we kind of cheat, so I think it’s different once you play against another team who hasn’t seen your sets. The way we played in the second half was good. The guards didn’t just take all jumpshots like the first half, we kicked it into the post, let them feel a little good about themselves instead of just having them run up and down and rebound and not getting any touches.”
As the only big man on Portland’s summer league roster who is also under contract with the Trail Blazers for next season, you should expect to see Vonleh get the majority of those touches, though Malcolm Thomas and Daniel Orton both had success at times in the paint Saturday night.
But more than anything, just getting a chance to see Vonleh in game action as a Trail Blazer for the first time, regardless of how many touches he get or points he scores, will be a welcomed event considering the hopes many have pinned on his development in Rip City.
“Tonight, just try to go out there, play hard, help my team win the best way I can,” said Vonleh. “I’m going to rebound the ball really well, go after every rebound, offensive, defensive, and just try to help my team win. When they find me open looks on the offensive end I’m just going to try to go to work down there and try to create for the other guys.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm on CSNNW and 620 AM.