Northwest Notes: McCollum, Cousins, Vanderbilt, Mitchell

CJ McCollum returned to the Trail Blazers’ lineup this week, but the team is much different than when he suffered a collapsed lung in early December, writes Casey Holdahl of Damian Lillard is out indefinitely after abdominal surgery and Anfernee Simons has blossomed as a star with the starting guards absent. Before he began playing again, McCollum addressed his teammates to let them know he’s willing to accept a complementary role in the offense.

“CJ was home watching us play a lot of games and I feel like we’ve gotten a ton better in so many different areas during that time,” coach Chauncey Billups said. “He recognized that and, not only recognized it, came back to the team and said ‘Don’t worry about fitting me back in. Just do what y’all do, I’ll be fine.’ That’s just the type of professional that he is. Didn’t surprise me but it was good and I’m pretty sure all the young guys were happy to hear that.”

Holdahl points to two plays in the closing minute of Friday’s win in Boston as evidence of McCollum’s commitment. Instead of forcing shots against a defense that was keying on him, McCollum got the ball to open teammates both times.

“I get in where I fit in,” he said. “I know how to play the game, I know what I have to offer to this team and I know how to contribute. I told them ‘Keep doing what y’all doing, be yourselves and I’ll do what I got to do.’”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The additions of Bryn Forbes and DeMarcus Cousins may solve the Nuggets‘ problem of inconsistent play from their reserves, notes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Forbes, who made his debut on Friday, is already impressed by the passing skills of Nikola Jokic. Cousins, who might play today after missing Friday’s game with a minor injury, will add an extra dimension to the offense, according to coach Michael Malone“When you’re a four-time All-Star, and you’re a guy that can put 28 points a night up, he has talent,” Malone said. “So many times this year we’ve seen second units just switch everything. I think DeMarcus is a guy that it makes it hard for other teams to just say we’re going to switch one through five and live with it.”
  • Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt saw his NBA career turn around after a trade that sent him from Denver to Minnesota two years ago, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “I was shocked when I got traded,” he said. “Honestly just because it was the realization that it wasn’t like college. … But looking back on it, I feel like it happened for the best, for me and my career. It allowed me to make a way and make a name for myself in this league.”
  • Jazz star Donovan Mitchell remains in the concussion protocol and will miss today’s game against the Warriors, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
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