“They needed more leadership, more guidance,” McCollum said about the state of his New Orleans teammates once he arrived on the team via trade in February. “But they also needed a guy who can really hoop. I thought I could be the perfect fit… It was kind of a blessing in disguise. I could come to a place where I was needed, but it was also a place where I could show everything I have to offer.”
McCollum, who has emerged as the club’s lead ball-handler, is averaging 24.3 PPG, 5.8 APG and 4.5 RPG across his 26 regular season games for the Pelicans this season. Guillory notes that McCollum is scoring at an efficient clip, connecting on 49.3% of his field goals and 39.4% of his three-point attempts.
“I think it’s about shifting the culture here,” McCollum said of his leadership role with the club. “I think the way New Orleans is viewed is a certain way, and when I leave it’ll be different… When my time is up and I walk away, people will view this place differently and they’ll view me differently.”
There’s more out of New Orleans:
- If Pelicans power forward Zion Williamson, who has missed the entire 2021/22 season with a right foot fracture, can return to the floor for New Orleans during 2022/23, the team would boast one of the best starting lineups in its history, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Starting point guard CJ McCollum would be joined by current rookie Herbert Jones on the wing, 2020 All-Star Brandon Ingram at small forward, Williamson at power forward and big man Jonas Valanciunas.
- All-Star guard Dejounte Murray and the Spurs consider Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas to be a significant cause of concern for Wednesday’s play-in game, writes Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “He’s a monster,” Murray said. “I’m actually a big fan of his.” Orsborn notes that Valanciunas proved a formidable foe during the 2021 play-in tournament, when he scored 23 points and pulled down 23 rebounds with the Grizzlies as part of a 120-116 win over the Spurs. “He’s a big, smart, talented guy. You don’t just plan for (McCollum and Ingram), you’ve got to plan for him as well.”
- High-scoring Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram is looking to prioritize team success over his individual numbers on the eve of the team’s play-in contest against the Spurs, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “It’s not an individual game,” Ingram said. “I know San Antonio is going to know everything that we’re going to be doing. We’re going to game plan for them. It’s going to be a physical game — emotional — but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”