Southwest Notes: McCollum, Murphy, Tate, Popovich

Pelicans star guard CJ McCollum, acquired just before last season’s trade deadline, reflected on his first calendar year spent with his new team, writes Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated.

“It’s been the most complex year of my life,” McCollum says. “It’s been a lot of character building, a lot of learning, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of meditation, therapy sessions with my therapist. And a lot of just heart-to-hearts with my family, with my wife, just trying to figure out next steps and what we want to accomplish in this life.”

As Beck notes, New Orleans finds itself at a crossroads, having slipped to fifth place in the West following long-term injuries to star forwards Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. Ingram has returned to the Pelicans after a two-month absence. The 26-24 Pelicans are currently on a seven-game losing streak.

“It’s definitely been tough,” McCollum says of having a more featured role without the star forwards. “It’s been a unique challenge. And I’ve had conversations with [coach Willie Green] about it. And obviously there’s a different type of load, a different type of usage, when BI and Zion are playing.”

This season, McCollum is averaging 21.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.5 RPG and 1.0 SPG across 45 contests for the Pelicans. He is posting a shooting line of .431/.388/.783.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The league has invited Pelicans forward Trey Murphy III to participate in this season’s All-Star game dunk contest, sources inform Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). It is unclear as of this writing if Murphy has accepted the invitation.
  • Teams are inquiring about the availability of young Rockets swingman Jae’Sean Tate, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports said on his podcast Please Don’t Aggregate This (hat tip to HoopsHype for the transcription). “The Houston Rockets are a clear seller,” Fischer said. “Today I heard Jae’Sean Tate is a player that has has received a lot of incoming calls.” Tate, 27, is in the first-year of a three-season, $20.6MM deal he signed with Houston. The 6’4″ forward is averaging 7.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG and 0.8 SPG in a reduced role this season.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is making sure to keep his young players motivated despite the rebuilding team’s increasing loss tally, reports Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “There are ups and downs in your life probably, and what do you do? You move on,” Popovich said. “You just go. I don’t pull out this piece of paper or this formula and go, ‘This is how I’m going to act because we didn’t make the playoffs.’”
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