CJ McCollum

Blazers Notes: Carmelo, Lillard, Slow Start

In a video posted to YouTube on Monday, Carmelo Anthony spoke about reaching an agreement to sign with the Trail Blazers, a deal that’s expected to be finalized later today. According to Anthony, he and Damian Lillard had talked “off and on” for the last couple years about the possibility of teaming up, and the 10-time All-Star is excited to get that chance now.

“I always kept my eye on Portland. It just didn’t work at other times, but now it seems like it’s a perfect opportunity,” Anthony said. “… I just look at that opportunity, that team, and say, ‘Look, this is what I can bring to the team. This is where I can help.’ It will only work if all parties see it the same way.”

Here’s more on Carmelo and the Blazers:

  • David Aldridge of The Athletic hopes the marriage between the Blazers and Anthony works out, but is skeptical that it will. One “NBA guy” who spoke to Aldridge expressed a similar uncertainty about the partnership, but did add, “He should help some. ‘Melo can score, period.”
  • Anthony will be joining the Trail Blazers during a trying period for the team — Portland is coming off a blowout loss at the hands of the Rockets and is now 12th in the West at 5-9. As Jason Quick of The Athletic relays, three years ago, when the Blazers were in a similar spot, Lillard publicly said the team “sucked.” But the star point guard isn’t willing to make the same assessment of this year’s squad. “I’m just older,” Lillard said. “It’s not impossible for me to think we suck, but I just better see what can be now. Even then I felt like we were going to be fine … and now, I feel like we are going to be cool. I mean, it’s such a long season. And we’ve won 13 games in a row before. And, things can’t go much worse. They just can’t go much worse.”
  • CJ McCollum also weighed in on the Blazers’ struggles and why he and Lillard are reacting differently than they may have in the past, per Quick: “We were so young (in 2016), so it was more like, we would say the right things but we really didn’t know it was going to happen,” McCollum said. “Yeah, we would say, ‘We are going to turn it around,’’but in the back of your mind it was, ‘Are we really going to turn it around?’ Now, it’s like you understand the schedule, the travel, and you understand the game turns around at some point.”
  • As we noted on Monday, injured center Jusuf Nurkic has officially missed out on a games-played bonus in his contract for the 2019/20 season.

And-Ones: Telfair, Georges-Hunt, O’Bryant, Re-Draft

Former high school basketball prodigy and NBA veteran Sebastian Telfair was sentenced on Monday to three and a half years in prison in his New York City gun case, per The Associated Press. Telfair, 34, was convicted earlier this year of carrying a loaded handgun in his pickup truck.

This was not Telfair’s first brush with the law nor his first incident involving a loaded weapon. He and a friend were arrested in 2007 after a traffic stop during which police found a loaded handgun in the vehicle. He pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon and was sentenced to three years’ probation.

While he never lived up to the hype from his prep career, Telfair did have a relatively successful NBA career. He played 564 games over 10 seasons and averaged 7.4 PPG and 3.5 APG.

There’s more NBA-related news to pass along this evening:

  • Former Magic and Timberwolves guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, now fully healthy, recently worked out for the Nuggets as he looks to work his way back to the NBA. According to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, the fully healthy 25-year-old Georgia Tech product also has several other workouts lined up the rest of the month.
  • As first reported by Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link), top EuroLeague free agent and former NBA player Johnny O’Bryant has signed with Lokomotiv Krasnodar (Twitter link) of the Russian VTB United League. O’Bryant, a second-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft, played four seasons in the NBA with the BucksNuggets, and Hornets.
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic would draft Bucks forward and 2018/19 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, and Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum with the top three picks in a re-draft of the 2013 NBA Draft. None of the three went higher than No. 10 overall six years ago.

Blazers Notes: Hood, Kanter, McCollum, Aldridge

Shooting guard Rodney Hood surprised the Trail Blazers by accepting the $5.72MM taxpayer mid-level exception, Jason Quick of The Athletic reports.

Portland was hoping to bring back center Enes Kanter at that number, but he balked. Blazers GM Neil Olshey thought Hood wanted more in free agency but was pleasantly surprised by Hood’s decision.

Olshey then shifted gears to finding a starting-quality center and got involved in the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade to Miami, winding up with Hassan Whiteside by dealing Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard.

We have more on the Blazers:

  • Backcourt partners CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard are now locked up long-term after McCollum signed a three-year, $100MM extension and they’re excited about that prospect, as he told Quick in a separate story. “It’s a special time,” McCollum said. “(Lillard and I) talked about being in Portland, making a staple here and winning a championship here, and all those things. We’ve crossed off a lot of goals individually and collectively, but I think that both of us being here for the long haul, and both of us being able to grow together and win together is something that people will remember for a long time.”
  • Pau Gasol, who recently signed with the Blazers, said former Spurs teammate LaMarcus Aldridge has spoken highly of Portland and may want to play there again, Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report tweets. Aldridge said last season he and Lillard had spoken about the prospect of becoming teammates again. Aldridge’s $24MM contract for the 2020/21 season is not guaranteed, so it’s conceivable that could occur as soon as next summer.
  • If you missed the details on McCollum’s extension, you can find it all here.

Blazers Sign CJ McCollum To Three-Year Extension

7:00pm: The Blazers and McCollum have made it official, with the team issuing a press release to announce the extension.

“CJ McCollum is a franchise cornerstone and a critical part of our future,” Neil Olshey said in a statement. “This extension represents a strong level of commitment between CJ, the Trail Blazers and the city of Portland.”

1:01pm: The Trail Blazers and guard CJ McCollum have reached an agreement on a contract extension that will add three years to his current deal, agent Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

According to Wojnarowski, the two sides have agreed to a three-year, $100MM extension that will keep McCollum under contract for the next five seasons in total — he has two years left on his current deal. Assuming the extension doesn’t feature any options, it will put the 27-year-old on track to reach unrestricted free agency in 2024.

The 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft, McCollum has emerged as one of the league’s best backcourt scorers in recent years, averaging at least 20.8 PPG in each of the last four seasons. In 2018/19, he recorded 21.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.0 APG with a shooting line of .459/.375/.828 in 70 games (33.9 MPG).

Because McCollum signed his current contract with Portland on July 27, 2016, he became eligible for an extension on Saturday, three years after that deal was completed. The two sides didn’t waste much time in working something out, though the new contract won’t go into effect until the 2021/22 season.

While three years was the most that McCollum and the Blazers could have tacked onto to his current deal, it’s not technically a maximum-salary extension. The standout shooting guard could have earned up to approximately $114MM on that three-year extension, so he’ll accept slightly less than that in exchange for long-term security.

McCollum’s extension will make him the fifth player to sign a contract extension this offseason, as well as the third player to ink a veteran extension. Most notably, he’s the second member of the Blazers’ backcourt to agree to a lucrative long-term extension this summer — the team locked up Damian Lillard to a four-year, super-max extension earlier this month.

Lillard’s extension begins in ’21/22, the same year as McCollum’s. It runs one year longer, but Portland is now assured of having its two star guards under contract for least the next five seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Gordon, McCollum Withdraw From U.S. World Cup Team

Two more potential Team USA players have decided not to participate in the 2019 World Cup. Rockets guard Eric Gordon is withdrawing from the team, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic, and Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum is joining him, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

With James Harden and Anthony Davis pulling out of the competition earlier this week, Team USA is now left with 16 players in training camp who will compete for 12 spots. The withdrawing players all said they want to focus on the upcoming season rather than the tournament, which will be held in China from August 31 to September 15. NBA training camps open in late September.

One of those remaining players, Kyle Lowry, had a surgical procedure on his thumb this week, and may not be physically ready to participate. His potential absence, plus the withdrawal of the four stars, should create more opportunity for members of the select team, who will be scrimmaging with the 16 players left in camp.

The players will gather for camp from August 5-8, and exhibition games will follow later in the month.

Canada’s World Cup team also lost an NBA player this week when Tristan Thompson elected not to participate, Charania tweets. In addition, Ben Simmons confirmed that he won’t be taking the court for Australia.

More Names Revealed For Team USA World Cup Tryouts

Team USA’s training camp roster for the FIBA World Cup will be announced next week, but four players have already been confirmed, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Anthony Davis, James Harden, Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker will definitely be part of the team, while the other 14 slots are still being worked out. The roster will be trimmed to 12 when the players gather in Las Vegas in early August to prepare for the tournament, which takes place from August 31 to September 15 in China.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski drops a few more names in a full story on the World Cup tryouts, which sources tell him are also expected to include Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Bradley Beal and Kevin Love. Others planning to be part of the camp include Eric Gordon, Jayson Tatum, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond and Kyle Kuzma.

P.J. Tucker will attend training camp as well, tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, and league sources tell Woj that Paul Millsap also plans to be there. Other names leaked for the camp are Tobias Harris (Twitter link from Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer) and Myles Turner (Twitter link from Scott Agness of the Athletic).

Zion Williamson, expected to be the first pick in the draft later this month, has been invited to camp as part of the 10-man select team that will scrimmage against the 18-man roster, Stein tweets. Williamson will be given a chance to play his way onto the final roster if he has a standout performance in that role, according to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo (Twitter link).

The select team will also include John Collins and Marvin Bagley, tweets Tim Bomtemps of ESPN.

The camp will be held from August 5-8, with exhibition games to follow before the start of World Cup play. Gregg Popovich will serve as head coach.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Layden, Wolves, Craig

The Trail Blazers may have injured guard C.J. McCollum back in their lineup tomorrow, tweets Jason Quick of The Athletic. McCollum is listed as probable for a second straight division showdown with the Nuggets. He hasn’t played since suffering a left knee strain on March 16.

The return of McCollum, who is second on the team in scoring at 21.3 PPG, comes at an opportune time for Portland, which is trying to hold onto home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. After last night’s loss to Denver, the Blazers stand at 50-29, just one game ahead of the fifth-place Jazz.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves will decide the fate of GM Scott Layden after the season ends, with ESPN broadcaster Chauncey Billups and Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth among the top candidates if Minnesota decides to make a change, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Wolves owner Glen Taylor was reportedly unhappy with Layden and former coach/executive Tom Thibodeau over the way they handled Jimmy Butler‘s trade request. Thibodeau was dismissed in early January.
  • A $9.2MM non-taxpayer mid-level exception will provide the Timberwolves with their best chance to improve this summer, writes Danny Leroux of The Athletic. All five starters will be under contract if Jeff Teague opts in to his $19MM salary, so Minnesota can use the MLE to try to fortify its reserves. Leroux suggests Marcus Morris, Tyreke Evans, Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington and Terrence Ross as possible targets.
  • Torrey Craig has become the Nuggets‘ most disruptive force on defense, observes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. The second-year forward has increased his stats across the board this season and is a valuable part of the rotation heading into the playoffs. “I hate to see guys comfortable, just dribbling easy getting to their spots,” Craig said. “So I make sure they try to feel me all the time no matter what, coming off screens or bringing the ball down court. I just want to be a physical presence on them the whole time.”

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nurkic, Tolliver, Jensen

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum has been sidelined with a left popliteus strain since March 16, but has ramped up his on-court work as he nears a potential return, writes Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. McCollum still wasn’t ready to commit to a specific return date, but sounded optimistic that he won’t be on the shelf for much longer.

“I think, having did some stuff today, I’m going to see how my body reacts, try to get through this week, see where I’m at and kind of go from there,” McCollum said on Wednesday. “When I first got hurt there were some dates that I kind of circled and I’m getting close to them, so I’ll see how I feel. But the biggest thing for me is to make sure I’m symptom-free, make sure I don’t have any lingering issues before I step back on the court.”

With four games left in the season, Portland has a two-game cushion on Utah for the No. 4 seed. The Blazers will finish their season against the Nuggets (twice), the Lakers, and the Kings as they look to secure home court advantage for the first round — it remains to be seen whether McCollum will be able to get back for any of those games.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers recorded their 50th win on Wednesday night, which means that injured center Jusuf Nurkic has officially earned a $1.25MM bonus. As Bobby Marks of ESPN.com details, Portland is now on the hook for another $2.19MM in tax costs, though that number will decrease a little when Maurice Harkless fails to shoot 35% on threes. Nurkic’s cap hit for 2019/20 will rise from $12MM to $13.25MM, since that 50-win bonus is now considered “likely” for next season.
  • When the Timberwolves faced the Mavericks last night, Anthony Tolliver could have been playing against the Wolves rather than for them, notes Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News, who tweets that he thinks Minnesota should have accepted Dallas’ trade offer of J.J. Barea and a second-round pick. Wolfson has previously reported that the Thunder and Raptors offered second-round picks attached to Patrick Patterson and C.J. Miles, respectively, for Tolliver, but those deals would’ve taken the Wolves into the tax.
  • In a discussion at The Athletic, Britt Robson and Jon Krawczynski look ahead to the Timberwolves’ offseason, examining the return from the Jimmy Butler trade, Ryan Saunders‘ future, and much more.
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen interviewed for the head coaching position at BYU this week, league sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) first identified Jensen as a potential frontrunner for BYU.

McCollum To Miss At Least Four More Games

The Trail Blazers could be without their second-leading scorer, shooting guard C.J. McCollum, for the rest of the regular season, according to an NBA.com report.

McCollum will not accompany the team on its upcoming four-game road trip, coach Terry Stotts told the media on Monday. He hasn’t played since suffering a left knee strain on March 16.

McCollum is averaging 21.3 points while shooting 46.3% from the field, including 38.0% from distance.

The Blazers won’t have another home game until April 3 against Memphis. There will only be a week left in the regular season at that point.

McCollum’s health is a major concern for a team that is trying to avert a second straight postseason flop. The Blazers were swept by New Orleans last season. McCollum has two years left on his four-year, $106.6MM contract and has often been the subject of trade rumors, which will intensify if Portland doesn’t advance in the playoffs this spring.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Jokic, Millsap, Wolves

While teammate Damian Lillard says he’s mentally preparing for C.J. McCollum to miss most or all of the rest of the regular season with a knee injury, McCollum isn’t ready to specify a target date or even to provide a general recovery timeline. As Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com relays, McCollum says he’s simply taking the injury “day by day.”

“What, did they say I’ll be re-evaluated in one week?” McCollum said when asked about a potential return date. “So, just taking it day by day, I don’t have a timeline that I’m going to give you guys, but I think just based on the research, there’s not a lot of injuries like this that have happened. So timeline is different just depending on the age, how well your body heals, what you’ve done before that and kind of where you’re at. But hopefully I can be back sooner than later.”

As I noted on Tuesday, the Trail Blazers are in a competitive race for a top-four seed, but have an easier schedule than several of their Western Conference rivals, meaning they won’t rush McCollum back onto the court. The important thing for Portland is that the 27-year-old is as close to 100% healthy as possible when the postseason gets underway. He’s due to be re-evaluated this weekend.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • When the Nuggets clinched a playoff spot earlier this week, Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap locked in bonuses worth $431K and $150K respectively, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN.com, who adds (via Twitter) that both players will receive additional bonuses if Denver wins a postseason series. As Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports observes (via Twitter), Jokic and Millsap will have slightly higher cap hits next season now that those incentives shift from “unlikely” to “likely.”
  • Cameron Reynolds‘ new multiyear deal with Minnesota is actually a three-year contract that runs through 2020/21, tweets Keith Smith. That means the Timberwolves used a portion of their mid-level exception to sign Reynolds. The deal still isn’t expected to include much – if any – guaranteed money beyond this season.
  • The Timberwolves‘ playoff hopes have been extinguished, but there’s still plenty to watch in Minnesota in the coming weeks, writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. Most pressingly, it remains to be seen who will be making the personnel decisions for the club this offseason or coaching the team next fall, Robson notes.