The Trail Blazers have benefited from their decision to allow Wesley Matthews to depart as a free agent last summer because it allowed C.J. McCollum to take on a larger role, one that he has taken full advantage of this season, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com writes. “Some players aren’t ready for the drastic change,” McCollum said. “I was ready. The opportunity increased, and my game rose with the increase. I knew what I was capable of. I just needed the opportunity to play.” The team isn’t surprised by McCollum’s breakout season, MacMahon notes. “If C.J. doesn’t get hurt in his rookie year, and by the time he comes back we were 22-4, we’d probably be talking about a three-year starter now,” GM Neil Olshey said. “This wouldn’t be year one of a Lillard-McCollum backcourt. We always believed in C.J.”
Despite their faith in McCollum’s abilities, he wasn’t the reason that the Blazers elected not to re-sign Matthews, MacMahon adds. “I don’t think that was by any means the motivating factor or deciding factor in what we did,” coach Terry Stotts said. “We knew. Neil drafted him. We were very confident in what he could do.”
Here’s more from out West:
- Nuggets combo forward JaKarr Sampson has fond memories of playing in Philadelphia and said he was surprised when he found out the Sixers had waived him, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Sampson was released in order to clear a roster spot for Joel Anthony, but the team lost out when the trade was voided. “Even though I was on a non-guaranteed [contract], I was expecting to be there longer than what I was,” Sampson said. “A lot of that had to do with I like Philly. I fell in love with the city. I loved how the city supported us. They still support us even though we are going through struggles, and we have been going through struggles for like three years.“
- Joe Ingles‘ role with the Jazz has been reduced this season, but he’s remained positive and has contributed when called upon, Jody Genessy of The Deseret News writes. “It’s not easy. It’s not something that obviously every player wants to play as much as possible,” Ingles said. “So it’s difficult sometimes, but at the end of the day, the bigger picture obviously is to win games and hopefully to push toward the playoffs.” The 28-year-old is only averaging 14.7 minutes per contest this season after logging 21.2 in 2014/15.
- The Rockets have assigned rookie power forward Montrezl Harrell to the D-League, the team announced. This will be Harrell’s fifth jaunt to Rio Grande Valley on the season.