CJ McCollum

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nuggets, Thunder, Nowell

Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum saw his first on-court action in over six weeks on Monday, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Having recovered from a collapsed lung suffered on December 4, McCollum chipped in 16 points during 28 minutes of action in his first game back with Portland, helping the team secure a 98-88 victory over the Magic.

“I think this is probably the most happy and at peace I’ve ever been in my life,” the 30-year-old McCollum said, noting that his outlook has shifted following the birth of his first child earlier this month. “I’ve always had a purpose before, but now I really, truly have a real purpose in my life, which is to be a good man and try to raise my son to the best of my abilities.”

In 25 games this season, McCollum is averaging 20.4 PPG, 4.4 APG and 4.0 RPG. His return to the court for the Trail Blazers arrives at a crucial time, as his backcourt mate Damian Lillard underwent surgery to address an abdominal strain last week and is scheduled to miss at least five or six weeks of action.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone discussed the recent right foot surgery of forward Bol Bol and the team’s plans for the NBA trade deadline, writes Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Malone revealed that Bol ultimately opted for the surgery after his trade to the Pistons was scuttled due to medical concerns. “Bol, his representation, once that trade was rescinded because of the failed physical, they felt that it was in his best interest to have the surgery and to address why that physical was failed,” Malone said. The Nuggets’ head coach also acknowledged that the team’s issues with injuries and COVID-19 have impacted the front office’s ability to discern exactly where to make upgrades via trade.
  • The Thunder front office hopes to be install a culture of winning habits despite the team’s less-than-stellar record, writes Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman“You can’t put players in bubble wrap and not expose them to the tough stuff,” said Oklahoma City team president Sam Presti.
  • Timberwolves third-year shooting guard Jaylen Nowell points to his time logged learning from game tape with his improvement on the floor, per Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “I’m putting more work in off the court as far as watching film damn near every single game, for real,” Nowell said. “I don’t look at it as, ‘Oh this is fun.’ I’m looking more at how guys are getting open, our defensive schemes. I’m watching every team way harder.” Nowell is averaging 7.9 PPG, 2.0 APG and 1.9 RPG with Minnesota this season.

CJ McCollum Set To Return On Monday

The Trail Blazers have endured a rough season but they will get one of their top players back in action on Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Guard CJ McCollum will be in uniform against Orlando after fully recovering from a collapsed lung, an injury he suffered against Boston on Dec. 4. Portland indicated in a press release two days before Christmas that McCollum’s lung had healed but he required several more weeks of recovery to regain his conditioning.

McCollum has averaged 20.6 PPG and 4.5 APG on .424/.393/.700 shooting in 24 games (35.3 MPG) so far this season. The 30-year-old, who is in the first year of a three-year, $100MM contract, could be an in-season trade candidate.

McCollum’s long-term backcourt partner, Damian Lillard, underwent abdominal surgery on Thursday and will be reevaluated in 5-6 weeks. Portland is currently 10th in the Western Conference standings with a 16-25 record.

Fischer’s Latest: McCollum, Powell, Simmons, Turner, Hawks, Schroder

Anfernee Simons‘ breakout season is leading to speculation that the Trail Blazers may try to trade CJ McCollum or Norman Powell, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Portland entered the season with plans to be a contender, but injuries and some disappointing performances have left the team in a tight race for a play-in spot. With Damian Lillard sidelined after abdominal surgery, the Blazers may opt to unload some of their assets and take advantage of a high draft pick going into next season.

There have been whispers throughout the league that McCollum might be available, though Fischer wonders how much of a return he’ll provide considering that he’s 30 years old, is in the middle of a down season, and has been out of action for six weeks after suffering a collapsed lung. He also has two full years left on his contract at $33.3MM and $35.8MM.

Powell, who signed a five-year, $90MM extension during the offseason, seems like a more surprising name to be included in trade talks. However, about a dozen teams wanted to acquire him before he went to Portland at last season’s deadline and Fischer found that many league executives see his contract as valuable.

There’s a belief that Powell wouldn’t mind being traded again, as sources tell Fischer that there were “several snags” in his contract negotiations with the Blazers. One of the teams he considered in free agency was the Pelicans, according to Fischer, who notes that New Orleans is seeking to upgrade to improve its chances of reaching the play-in tournament.

Fischer shares a few more trade rumors from around the league:

  • Little has changed on the Ben Simmons trade front since the offseason, as Sixers ownership, the front office, coach Doc Rivers, and star center Joel Embiid are all united in the stance that the team needs to get an elite player in return. Fischer states that Philadelphia is willing to wait for someone along the lines of Lillard, Bradley Beal, James Harden or Jaylen Brown to become available. The Sixers have discussed three-team packages with the Kings, Pacers and Timberwolves, but none of those teams can offer a star that Philadelphia sees as equal value for Simmons.
  • The Pacers are seeking multiple first-round picks in exchange for center Myles Turner. The Mavericks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Kings, Hornets and Trail Blazers have all expressed interest, and several league executives told Fischer that the Raptors might be a team to watch. The Cavaliers and Knicks have asked about Caris LeVert, but Indiana also wants multiple first-rounders for him. The Pacers have gauged the trade value of Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb and Torrey Craig too, Fischer adds.
  • The Hawks are willing to consider a major upheaval before the deadline, with a rival assistant GM telling Fischer that he believes everyone except Trae Young and Clint Capela are available. Atlanta appears willing to move De’Andre Hunter for veteran help, and there may be a market for Danilo Gallinari, who only has a $5MM guarantee next season on his $20MM contract.
  • The Celtics will try to trade Dennis Schröder, who is unlikely to be re-signed next season because of tax considerations. The Knicks, Cavaliers and Mavericks are all possible destinations. Boston has also targeted Suns center Jalen Smith, who will be a free agent after Phoenix declined his third-year option.

CJ McCollum’s Lung Has Fully Healed

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has been cleared for non-contact drills after a CT scan on Wednesday showed that his right lung is fully healed, according to a team press release.

McCollum suffered a pneumothorax — a collapsed right lung — earlier this month.

McCollum has averaged 20.6 PPG and 4.5 APG on .424/.393/.700 shooting in 24 games (35.3 MPG) so far this season. The 30-year-old, who is in the first year of a three-year, $100MM contract, could be an in-season trade candidate.

McCollum also been cleared for increased conditioning and shooting and will be reevaluated next week, according to the release. That suggests he’s is probably still at least a couple of weeks away from returning to action for Portland, which is languishing with a 13-19 record.

CJ McCollum To Be Reevaluated In One Week

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who is currently sidelined due to a collapsed right lung, underwent further examination on Tuesday, including a CT scan, according to the team. The Blazers said in a press release that McCollum continues to show improvement and will be reevaluated again a week from now.

McCollum still isn’t close to returning — he’s only participating in light conditioning work for the time being and won’t join the team on its upcoming road trip to Memphis (Sunday) and New Orleans (Tuesday) next week.

The slumping Blazers got Damian Lillard back on Sunday, but could badly use a healthy McCollum in their lineup as a complementary scorer and play-maker. Since starting the season 10-8, the club has lost nine of its last 10 games, including six in a row.

McCollum has averaged 20.6 PPG and 4.5 APG on .424/.393/.700 shooting in 24 games (35.3 MPG) so far this season. He could be an in-season trade candidate, though other Blazers veterans – including Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington – are considered more likely to be shopped.

Blazers Notes: Cronin, Lillard, McCollum, Trade Targets, Luxury Tax

Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin said the roster requires some changes and vows it will happen, Mark Medina of NBA.com tweets. “We know there’s something we need to do with the roster, and we will,” he said.

Cronin has “constant communications” with Damian Lillard about the roster. Cronin also indicated that Lillard and CJ McCollum are “happy” with head coach Chauncey Billups and his staff.

Cronin says he has the backing of the team’s ownership, Medina adds in another tweet. “They told me they believe in me,” he said. “They haven’t made many declarations other than this is a nice venue for you to do good work, you’ll be evaluated and you’ll have a chance.”

Cronin was the team’s director of player personnel before GM Neil Olshey was fired last week.

We have more on the Blazers:

  • HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan discuss trade scenarios involving McCollum — currently out with a collapsed lung — and the search for new GM in a podcast. Scotto believes the franchise should pursue trades for their backcourt stars and start a rebuild.
  • Gozlan explores potential trade targets for McCollum, including Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner and others, in a separate HoopsHype story.
  • Whether they make big or small moves, the Blazers have to find a way to get under the luxury tax threshold, The Athletic’s John Hollinger writes. They’re currently $3MM over the tax line and it’s not worth paying that price, given the team’s current issues.

CJ McCollum Has Collapsed Right Lung

8:53pm: McCollum released an optimistic statement addressing the injury on his personal Instagram page.

7:32pm: Trail Blazers starting shooting guard CJ McCollum has suffered a collapsed right lung, according to a team press release. A CT scan revealed the injury.

Per Portland, McCollum incurred the injury, also known as a pneumothorax, during a 145-117 loss to the Celtics on December 4. The team went on to disclose that McCollum would undergo further testing before a recovery timeline is determined.

The 30-year-old is averaging 20.6 PPG, 4.5 APG, 4.1 RPG and 1.1 SPG across 35.3 MPG for the 11-14 Trail Blazers, currently the N0. 10 seed in the Western Conference and losers of three straight games. McCollum owns a shooting line this season of .424/.393/.700.

Portland is also missing All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, still recuperating from lower abdominal tendinopathy. The 31-year-old is in the first season of a four-year, $176.3MM maximum contract with the Trail Blazers. Lillard will become eligible for a two-year maximum extension to that deal during the 2022 offseason.

McCollum, who has three years and $100MM guaranteed on his deal, has long been considered a viable candidate for a trade to improve the team alongside his All-NBA backcourt running mate. Prior to this injury news, a deal for embattled Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons seemed possible.

This news is very scary for one of the NBA’s most dynamic players. We at Hoops Rumors wish McCollum a speedy and full recovery and can’t wait to see him lighting up box scores very soon.

Blazers Rumors: Lillard, Front Office, McCollum, Nurkic, Covington, More

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard will become eligible for a two-year, $106MM extension during the 2022 offseason. That extension – which Lillard wants to lock in, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski – would begin in 2025/26 and would cover his age-35 and age-36 seasons.

Lillard and his agent need Portland’s next permanent general manager to sell team ownership on offering that super-max extension, according to Wojnarowski, who hears that the guard’s camp had concerns about Neil Olshey‘s willingness to recommend such an offer to Jody Allen. Chris Mannix of SI.com also hears that Olshey wasn’t sold on tacking two more years (at $51MM and $55MM) onto Lillard’s deal.

Although Lillard and his camp will be motivated to help the Blazers find a GM who is receptive to offering that extension, most of the top-level candidates who figure to draw interest from Portland aren’t enthusiastic about making that offer, says Wojnarowski. In fact, some of those potential candidates told Woj that they’d be more interested in the Blazers’ job if they could trade Lillard and rebuild, rather than extending the six-time All-Star.

According to Wojnarowski, Lillard’s camp is “privately selling the idea” of the Blazers trading some of their current players and continuing to build around Dame (on a new extension). However, candidates for the permanent general manager job in Portland believe they’ll need to sell themselves to team ownership, not to Lillard and his camp.

While it remains possible Lillard’s group will have some input in the GM choice, Wojnarowski suggests they’ve been “thwarted on several leverage plays” this year, including their preference for Jason Kidd as Terry Stotts‘ replacement and their desire to trade for Ben Simmons.

Here are several more rumors out of Portland:

  • The Blazers haven’t begun reaching out to potential candidates for the permanent GM job, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who hears that there’s no concrete list of contenders yet beyond interim GM Joe Cronin. The organization is still deciding whether to hire a firm to research and recommend candidates, per Wojnarowski.
  • The Pelicans offered Jrue Holiday to Portland in 2020 in exchange for CJ McCollum and three first-round picks, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. A deal involving McCollum remains possible, but the Blazers are considered more likely to move Jusuf Nurkic and/or Robert Covington, says Fischer, adding that the team is “presently known to be down on both players.”
  • Lillard has expressed interest since the 2020 offseason in a handful of defensively-minded wings, per Fischer. Besides Simmons, Lillard has also shown interest in playing with Jaylen Brown and Aaron Gordon, sources tell Bleacher Report.
  • According to Fischer, Lillard’s lower abdominal tendinopathy is an injury that has bothered him off and on for years. The All-NBA guard even considered surgery this past offseason to address the issue, Fischer adds.
  • There are several teams with interest in trading for Lillard, but three teams in that group told Wojnarowski they’d want to wait for the 31-year-old to request a trade before calling Portland, since the Blazers’ leverage would be reduced in that scenario. The Sixers have made an offer, but the Knicks haven’t, Wojnarowski adds. For his part, Lillard would have limited leverage to push for a specific landing spot if he asks out, since he still has three more years left on his current contract after 2021/22.
  • Multiple league sources with knowledge of the situation tell Fischer that some Blazers players this season have been frustrated with Chauncey Billups‘ “coaching demeanor,” as well as his offensive system. In the latest Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Ohm Youngmisuk, and Ramona Shelburne discussed the fact that Billups’ tendency to call out players publicly may rub the current generation the wrong way.
  • There have been whispers that Blazers owner Jody Allen might decide to sell her stake in the Blazers following the NBA’s next television agreement, says Fischer. If that’s the plan, there will be even more pressure on the team to make sure its next front office hire and big roster moves are the right ones.

CJ McCollum Talks Lillard, Olshey, Trade Rumors, More

The dismissal of Trail Blazers head of basketball operations Neil Olshey could have a real impact on the future of guard CJ McCollum, whom Olshey valued especially highly.

Under Olshey’s leadership, the Blazers were extremely resistant to moving McCollum, even though he looked like the most obvious trade candidate if the team sought to make a splash and acquire another star to complement Damian Lillard.

In the wake of Olshey’s firing, McCollum’s top advocate within the organization is gone. And a report on Monday suggested that Lillard would like to see the club acquire Ben Simmons to improve its defense — such a deal would likely require McCollum’s inclusion.

Asked by Jason Quick of The Athletic about whether Lillard’s push for roster upgrades – possibly at McCollum’s expense – has put a strain on their relationship at all, McCollum said he remains close with his longtime backcourt partner.

“Me and Dame have a good relationship,” McCollum said. “I think when Dame speaks, you hear him. When you hear ‘sources’ and ‘anonymous,’ I don’t necessarily know if that is Dame or not, because it’s not Dame putting his name on it. He generally puts his name on things. I know where he stands with me, and he knows where I stand with him. The organization, they need to do what is best for themselves.

“… If he wanted me to leave, I think he would say that. He’s not speaking on me behind closed doors because that’s not in his DNA. He’s not built like that. He’s solid, and I know his word is his bond.”

McCollum admitted that it has been a tough season so far. The 11-14 Blazers are off to a slow start, and the 30-year-old guard’s numbers are down — his 20.6 PPG is his lowest mark since 2014/15 and his .424 FG% would be the second-worst shooting rate of his career. McCollum said that he and his wife are expecting their first child in a matter of weeks, which has diverted his focus away from the court at times.

McCollum stressed that it’s not in his character to “run from” adversity, but acknowledged that he isn’t oblivious to rumors about the Blazers potentially making changes to their roster after having overhauled their coaching staff and front office this year. He spoke to Quick about a handful of topics in a discussion that’s worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber. Here are some of the highlights:

On his first impressions of head coach Chauncey Billups, including Billups’ willingness to call out the Blazers’ players if he’s not happy with their effort:

“I like Chauncey. I like his approach. I think he’s approaching things the right way. He’s not a guy who thinks he knows it all. I think he’s approaching things the right way — asking for feedback, asking questions, and he’s holding himself accountable, which is important. It’s on us to be better, and he has stated that.”

On Olshey’s exit from the franchise:

“It was tough, unfortunate. Neil is a good friend of mine, obviously. He was someone who had faith in me, trust and belief in me, and I was in a solid position. I mean, a GM of a franchise, having been in the NBA a long time … it was just unfortunate that the situation occurred, and what happened in the investigation. I mean, obviously, they found something that was worthy of letting him go, which is not ideal. But it was tough.”

On the general upheaval within the organization:

“This is different than anything I’ve ever experienced because of the circumstances. This is the first year of my career where we lost our whole coaching staff, brought in a new coach, a new staff, the GM gets fired in the middle of the season … all of that affects you on the court. But there is no excuses. I didn’t come here to tell you ‘There’s a lot of s–t going on’ … but yeah, there is. There’s s–t going on — every day. And I’m a f—ing human being. But look, at the end of the day, my job is to play basketball. So I go play basketball.”

On whether he feels less certain about his future in Portland with Olshey gone:

“That’s a question for somebody else. I just do my job: show up for work and do my job.”

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Schroder, McCollum, Raptors

Would Kyrie Irving be willing to receive a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine when it’s approved? That might sway him, people close to the enigmatic Nets guard told Mark Sanchez of the New York Post. Irving is a vegan, Sanchez notes, and plant-based vaccines are being tested, including one from a Canadian biotech company that is going through clinical trials.

It’s uncertain when such vaccines would be approved in the U.S. Nets head coach Steve Nash has not talked with Irving about a possible plant-based option. “If we get the gift of his return, we’ll be ecstatic, but we can’t count on it,” Nash said.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Dennis Schroder has provided a jolt to the Celtics’ offense with his speed and isolation ability, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Schroder has averaged 17.9 PPG and 4.9 APG while starting 14 of 23 games. Schroder is thus far pumping up his value after settling for a one-year, $5.9MM contract during a disappointing foray into free agency over the summer.
  • Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is reportedly lobbying for the acquisition of Ben Simmons with CJ McCollum potentially being the most prominent player coming back to the Sixers. PhillyVoice’s Kyle Neubeck doesn’t see McCollum as the impact player the Sixers are seeking for Simmons. While McCollum would boost the offense, he is in the first year of a three-year, $100MM contract. It’s a high price tag for a player who doesn’t produce at an elite level and wouldn’t help the Sixers defensively, and the money he’s making would make him difficult to trade.
  • The Raptors have held Milwaukee to 93 points and Washington to 90 while recording back-to-back victories. Coach Nick Nurse is pleased by the team’s defensive improvement, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca writes. “We were really connected,” Nurse said after the Wizards’ game. “Just not a whole lot of mistakes and most of the shots had somebody in front of them, one way or another and it’s good to see.”