CJ McCollum

Southwest Notes: McCollum, Kyrie, Sochan, Porter

In his latest diary entry for Andscape, Pelicans guard CJ McCollum discussed a handful of topics, including injured teammates Zion Williamson and Jose Alvarado and his expectations for the home stretch of the season. Perhaps most notably, he confirmed that his own right thumb injury will require surgery during the offseason.

“I knew the final outcome would probably be surgery, and I was notified that that’s what it’s going to have to be,” McCollum wrote. “It’s my shooting hand, so you’re always a little nervous. So, I’ve just been checking in with a hand specialist out of New York and just making sure things are progressing and continue to get images every couple weeks to track the progress as to what type of surgery I may need, what’s the process going to look like and I’m comfortable with what I’ve been hearing so far, so I’ll be all right.”

McCollum acknowledged that it hasn’t been ideal playing through the thumb injury, which has “affected how I dribble, shoot, pass, (and) absorb passes.” However, he said that shutting it down for the season has never been an option he seriously considered, since he believes he can still be effective.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Dallas is just 7-12 since Kyrie Irving made his Mavericks debut and has slipped out of the top 10 in the West, but Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) has heard only positive things about the guard’s professionalism and locker room presence since last month’s trade. Blaming Irving for Luka Doncic‘s recent frustration wouldn’t be “fair or accurate,” MacMahon adds.
  • A nagging right knee injury will sideline Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan on Sunday for the seventh time in his last 11 games. However, the rookie has downplayed the issue as “nothing serious” and head coach Gregg Popovich said the team “probably” won’t shut down Sochan for the season, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). It sounds like there’s no concern that the knee problem will turn into a major injury, and the Spurs want to give Sochan all the reps they can before his first NBA season ends.
  • Despite the way in which his time in Cleveland ended, Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. still values the time he spent with the Cavaliers and said he’s looking forward to playing in Cleveland on Sunday, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “I would say that’s the first time I learned about the business of the NBA,” Porter said of the trade that sent him to Houston following a locker-room incident with the Cavs. “But we’re all still close, still. Those relationships are still there and very valuable to me, and (to) the other side, too. Definitely, a lot of people would say it was bad, a bad (ending). It was (for) the best for both of us.”

Pelicans Notes: Ingram, Zion, McCollum, Hayes

The Pelicans may not have either of their star forwards available as they begin what could be the most important stretch of their season, writes Christian Clark of NOLA. Zion Williamson will be sidelined until at least March 22 with a strained right hamstring, and Brandon Ingram is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game after spraining his right ankle on Wednesday.

“(Ingram’s) done some pool work today,” coach Willie Green said Friday. “He’s done some work on the floor. He’ll be questionable tomorrow.”

Currently 10th in the West at 32-34, the Pelicans will play three games in the next four days against teams close to them in the standings. After hosting the Thunder tonight, New Orleans will face the Trail Blazers on Sunday and the Lakers on Tuesday.

There’s more on the Pelicans:

  • While Ingram and Williamson have both missed more games than they’re played this season, CJ McCollum‘s durability has helped New Orleans stay afloat, Clark adds. McCollum has fought through multiple illnesses and recently began wearing a splint because of an injured right thumb, but he has appeared in 59 of the Pelicans’ 66 games. “CJ has been a warrior for us all season,” Green said. “Like you said, he has played through being sick. Playing through the thumb injury, which we know. He understands the magnitude of our games coming up. We’re leaning on him a ton.”
  • Williamson hasn’t played since January 2, but a source close to the situation tells Sam Amick of The Athletic that the team still expects him to return before the regular season ends. Williamson was averaging 26 points per game before the injury, and his presence could have a major impact on the playoff race.
  • A sprained ankle that sidelined Larry Nance Jr. has created more playing time for Jaxson Hayes, Clark notes in another NOLA story. Hayes hasn’t become the player the Pelicans thought he would when they selected him with the eighth pick in the 2019 draft, but he sometimes shows why the team was so high on him. He had 14 points in 24 minutes in Wednesday’s win over the Mavericks, making all six of his shots and closing down the lane against Dallas on defense. New Orleans considered trades involving Hayes before last month’s deadline, according to Clark, but opted to hold onto him in his contract year.

Southwest Notes: Adams, McCollum, Eason, Spurs

Grizzlies center Steven Adams has been out since January 22 after spraining the PCL in his right knee, but he appears to be nearing a return. Head coach Taylor Jenkins said Adams has begun 5-on-5 work in practices and the team is hopeful Adams could play by the end of the upcoming road trip, though that isn’t set in stone (Twitter link via Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian).

The road trip Jenkins is referring to starts Wednesday in Houston and ends next Tuesday in Los Angeles, so Adams could be back within around a week. Remarkably, despite missing the past 13 games, Adams still leads the NBA in total offensive rebounds with 214 (Ivica Zubac is second with 196).

The 29-year-old is averaging a career-high 11.5 rebounds (5.1 offensive) in 27.0 minutes per game through 42 games in 2022/23. The Grizzlies have gone 5-8 without Adams over the past month-plus.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has been bothered by a right thumb injury, which he described as a ligament issue, and plans to undergo an MRI “soon,” per Christian Clark of NOLA.com (Twitter links). “It’s not ideal,” he said. “I’m playing. I have to be better, and I will be better. I understand what’s at stake for us. What’s at stake for our seeding. And how these next few games are going to define our season.” As McCollum noted, the 30-31 Pelicans’ spot in the postseason is quite tenuous — they’re currently the No. 10 seed, but three teams are right on their heels for the final spot in the play-in tournament.
  • Tari Eason‘s offensive numbers are solid, if unspectacular for a rookie — he’s averaging 8.7 points on .442/.347/.750 shooting splits in 19.6 minutes per game. However, the 21-year-old forward has made his presence felt on the other end of the court for the Rockets, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. “I see a lot of people talking about some of the best defenders in the league,” Eason said as part of a larger quote. “I want to be one of those dudes they talk about. I feel like I’m the best rookie defender in this class.” Eason ranks sixth among rookies with 5.6 rebounds per night, per Feigen, and second in steals and deflections. His 2.8% steal percentage ranks fifth in the entire NBA, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
  • The Spurs have had to use a couple of 19-year-old rookies — Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley — at point guard lately due to a mysterious foot injury to starter Tre Jones. According to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News, the Spurs aren’t quite sure what’s going on with Jones’ foot. “It’s a strange injury,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s one of the toughest young men on the planet. There’s nothing on the (MRI) film or anything like that. He just can’t go.”

Commissioner, Union Leaders Optimistic About New CBA

Now that the early opt-out deadline has been extended to March 31, commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio are focused on working out a new collective bargaining agreement by that date, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I would just say it’s an absolute priority for us as well to get a deal done as soon as possible,” Silver said Saturday at his annual All-Star Game news conference. He later added, “It’s my hope that the deal will be done by then.”

Both sides indicated that progress has been made on a new CBA, although some issues still have to be worked through, such as how to handle load management and the potential addition of a midseason tournament. NBPA president CJ McCollum is a supporter of the tournament, citing experiences that his brother had with a similar arrangement in Europe.

“Obviously, we’re still working through logistics and what that kind of looks like, the financial implications behind the midseason tournament,” McCollum said. “I think, as a player who has played in play-in games probably more than I would have liked to at this point in my career, I think there was probably some pessimism and optimism mixed in from our fan base about what that was going to look like.”

Another topic being negotiated is a league proposal to permit players to enter the draft straight out of high school. The union appears open to the idea, but it wants some mechanism to make sure too many veteran players won’t be pushed out of the league as a result. Tremaglio would like to see a structure set up to help high schoolers make the jump to the NBA and give them their best shot at success.

“We recognize that we really do need to make sure that we have the structure in place, if we’re going to have people join the league at the age of 18,” she said. “We also appreciate that there is a lot of benefit to really having veterans who can bring those 18-year-olds along. And so you know, certainly anything that we would even consider, to be quite honest, would have to include a component that would allow veterans to be a part of it as well.”

Silver touched on a few other significant issues, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

  • The commissioner cited “medical data” to support the way teams are currently handling load management and disagreed with claims that stars are sitting out too often.
  • He said the league is on pace to set records for ticket sales and season-ticket renewals, adding that this year’s All-Star Game is reaching new highs with $280MM in economic impact and 33,000 combined hotel nights.
  • Silver said a contingency plan is in place to make sure games are televised if any regional sports networks go bankrupt before the end of the season.
  • He added that no new expansion discussions have taken place. Silver has said before that the league wants to focus on finalizing a new CBA before considering expansion.

Pelicans Notes: McCollum, Zion Injury, Deadline, Richardson

In his latest diary entry for Andscape, Pelicans guard CJ McCollum touches on several interesting topics, including Zion Williamson‘s rehab setback, the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations (McCollum, the NBPA president, says those talks are going in “the right direction”), and his own health.

As McCollum explains, he has been battling a right thumb injury that has affected his ability to dribble, shoot, and catch passes. With the All-Star break around the corner, the veteran guard is somewhat relieved that he won’t be part of the festivities in Salt Lake City and will get a week to rest the injury.

“I was talking to (All-Star center Domantas) Sabonis, as we both are playing with thumb injuries,” McCollum wrote. “I’ve been playing with a splint for a few weeks now, and he actually fractured his thumb completely. So, I was looking at his thumb, he’s looking at mine. At least I get a week off. Yeah, I need a week off instead of going to go play in the All-Star Game.

“I don’t think that I’ll need surgery after the season, fingers crossed. I’ll get another image in two weeks, I believe. As of right now, I’m not under the impression that I’ll need surgery when the season’s over.”

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • William Guillory of The Athletic takes a look at seven key questions related to the latest news on Williamson, who is expected to be out for several more weeks as he recovers from his right hamstring injury. Guillory believes Williamson’s extended recovery timeline probably affected the Pelicans’ aggressiveness at the trade deadline, though he’s skeptical that the club would have been willing to offer the pieces necessary to land an impact player like OG Anunoby or Mikal Bridges even if Zion were due back soon.
  • The Pelicans’ approach to the trade deadline made it clear that the team isn’t quite ready to go “all in” yet, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. The belief is that New Orleans will be willing to surrender first-round picks and go into the tax when the time is right, but the club gave up only second-round picks and shed some 2023/24 salary at last week’s deadline.
  • The Pelicans’ lone deadline addition, Josh Richardson, made his debut in Oklahoma City on Monday and head coach Willie Green liked what he saw from the veteran swingman, who had a season-high five steals. “J-Rich was good,” Green said, according to Clark. “You could see his veteran savviness on the floor. Makes great decisions defensively. I thought he changed the game with steal after steal. That’s a part of what we wanted when we acquired him.”

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.’”

Southwest Notes: McCollum, Wood, Jones, Washington

Pelicans star point guard CJ McCollum may be one of the finest current players never to earn an All-Star berth. The 31-year-old could have a shot at the honor this season, but to hear him tell it, he’s not particularly worried about that recognition, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

“I get paid like an All-Star,” McCollum noted. “If it happens, that’s great. If not, I am treated very well on the 1st and the 15th. I just do my job. You could argue I should have made it in previous years. But it’s more about team success… I’m here to win games. I’m going to be more efficient. I’m going to be more consistent. I am going to make plays. I am going to make shots and am going to help us win.”

During the summer, McCollum inked a two-year, $64MM contract extension that will keep him under team control through the 2025/26 season. Through 38 games with New Orleans, McCollum is averaging 21.2 PPG on .435/.403/.785 shooting. He is also contributing 5.9 APG, 4.7 RPG and 1.0 SPG for the 26-17 Pelicans.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • As Mavericks center Christian Wood continues to grow comfortable with his role with Dallas, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News wonders how Wood’s recent development impacts the likelihood of a contract extension being negotiated this season. Wood could enter free agency in the summer of 2023 if he does not reach an extension agreement with Dallas before then. He is eligible to sign a four-year deal worth up to $77MM until June 30. Townsend notes that Wood has been conscious of his coaches’ feedback and has improved on the defensive end of the floor for Dallas. The big man is averaging 18.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, and 1.3 BPG through 40 games this season. He is also shooting well all over the court, boasting splits of .543/.394/.731.
  • During his first season as a starter, third-year Spurs guard Tre Jones has added a scoring element to his game, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Primarily known as a passer, Jones has averaged 20.8 PPG on 50% shooting from the floor and 40% shooting from the three-point line across his last five contests. “I’m continuing to just trust the work I put in, trying to just play my game and not get too hung up on if I am making shots, missing shots,” Jones said. “I know what my role is on this team, and I continue to try to do that every single night and just let the rest take care of itself.” 
  • Following a 53-point, 10-rebound Friday night game for the NBAGL’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers, rookie guard TyTy Washington was recalled to rejoin the Rockets ahead of their next game Sunday, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. In his last three contests with the Vipers, Washington averaged 33.3 PPG while shooting 46.5% from the floor and dishing out 7.3 APG. “It helped me grow on and off the court,” Washington said of his development with the Rockets’ G League affiliate. “It taught me to stay ready, stay patient. When your number gets called, go out there and do what you do. In the meantime, don’t look at it like I’ve been demoted or anything like that. Go down there, have fun, play your game, and get your confidence.”

Western Notes: Leonard, McCollum, Johnson, Paul

Perhaps the most encouraging news for the Clippers in recent weeks is that their biggest star, Kawhi Leonard, appears to be rounding into form, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times notes. Though his minutes are still somewhat limited, Leonard has averaged 23.2 points and 35.0 minutes in four games during the team’s current road trip.

“As far as explosiveness, I don’t think that’s all the way back yet or as far as trusting it all the way right now. But just his decision-making, his timing of getting to his spots and getting to his shot and I think his timing of making passes when teams are double-teaming, making the right read in the right play, that’s really good,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • CJ McCollum admitted he was literally shooting for the Pelicans’ 3-point record, Andrew Lopez of ESPN writes. McCollum knocked down 11 to set the single-game franchise record as New Orleans defeated Philadelphia on Friday. “I was just trying to shoot as many 3s as possible, to be honest with you,” McCollum said. McCollum, who is ineligible to be traded this season, is under contract with New Orleans through 2026 after signing an extension in September.
  • Veteran forward Stanley Johnson has only been on the Spurs roster for less than three weeks but he feels that being a vocal leader is part of his duty, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. “The thing that is consistent with good teams is that they are very vocal,” said Johnson, who was signed to a one-year deal on Dec. 13. “I’m trying to be vocal as much as I can, and hope it’s contagious.”
  • Suns guard Chris Paul expressed frustration with what he feels is inconsistent officiating around the league, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic relays. Paul was addressing a delay of game call against him in a loss to Toronto. “It’s tough in this league, especially when you play for so long and you get techs,” Paul said. “So much stuff is trivial and it’s so much control over what you can say, interpret the rules. I watch and play every night and I see guys get things called. I watch too much basketball and guys just drop the ball night after night and I don’t see a delay of game.”

Injury Notes: MPJ, Hyland, Oladipo, Pelicans, Clippers, Holmgren

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (left heel contusion) will miss his fourth consecutive game on Wednesday, but Denver will get some reinforcements vs. Houston with Bones Hyland (non-COVID illness) set to make his return following a three-game absence, per Harrison Wind or DNVR Sports (Twitter links).

Hyland last played on November 22 and was hampered by his illness on that night, logging just nine minutes. The Nuggets guard said today that he “couldn’t breathe on the floor” during that game, but is “feeling great” now, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Here are a few more health-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo practiced with the team on Tuesday, but there wasn’t any contact during that session and he won’t play on the current road trip, which runs through next Monday, head coach Erik Spoelstra said today (link via Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel). While Oladipo hasn’t played yet this season due to left knee tendinosis, it sounds like he’s making progress toward a return.
  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but will remain sidelined on Wednesday as he attempts to get back into game shape, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. New Orleans did get some good news on Larry Nance Jr. — he’ll be available after missing Monday’s game with a right shoulder injury.
  • Still without Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Luke Kennard, the Clippers added Norman Powell to their injury report for Wednesday’s game in Utah due to a left groin strain. Powell is doubtful to play, says Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Thunder big man Chet Holmgren will undergo a follow-up procedure to remove the “hardware” in his right foot from his previous surgery, a team spokesperson tells Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The procedure had been planned and is a sign that Holmgren is making progress, Mussatto adds.

Southwest Notes: McCollum, Pelicans Bench, Wood, McGee, Wall

CJ McCollum has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and is out for Friday’s game against the Grizzlies, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

In his first full season as a starting point guard, the Pelicans veteran is averaging 18.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.1 APG and 1.2 SPG on .410/.342/.794 shooting through 17 games (35.1 MPG). The rebounds and assists represent career highs, but the FG% and 3PT% are career lows. McCollum has never shot below 37.5% from long distance, so his current figure should rise over time.

With McCollum sidelined in Wednesday’s victory over the Spurs, second-year guard Jose Alvarado started in his place, with Devonte’ Graham and Dyson Daniels receiving more playing time off the bench. That should continue until McCollum is cleared to return.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans‘ bench has been a major reason the team has withstood short-term injuries to stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram thus far in 2022/23, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com (subscriber link). “It’s extremely important if you want to go far in the postseason,” head coach Willie Green said. “Having your second unit come in that can execute, that’s fearless. They play together. They play with joy. It makes all the difference in the world of how far your team can go.” As Clark notes, Alvarado and Larry Nance Jr. have been standout performers off the bench, but multiple players are contributing to wins for the 11-7 Pelicans.
  • Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News questions why Christian Wood hasn’t received more playing time after the Mavericks dealt their 2022 first-round pick to acquire him from Houston in the offseason. Sherrington writes that the Mavs knew Wood wasn’t a great defensive player when they made the trade, and he’s been highly productive when on the court, averaging 17.3 PPG and 7.8 RPG on .585/.447/.697 shooting in just 25.3 MPG through 15 games. On the other end of the spectrum, Sherrington states that JaVale McGee has been a disappointing free agent addition thus far and probably shouldn’t be getting rotation minutes.
  • Both Wood and head coach Jason Kidd responded to questions about Wood potentially entering the Mavericks‘ starting lineup after Wednesday’s lopsided loss to the Celtics, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “I think I’m gonna just keep that that personal opinion to myself,” Wood said. “But what I can say is I’m enjoying my time here. I love playing for Dallas. These guys, they support me. They pick me up when I have a bad game. So things are going great.” Kidd said he talks to his staff about possible changes every day, and suggested one might be coming soon. “You’ve got to look at all the combinations you got to see who’s playing well,” he said, per Townsend. “And just understand that sometimes change has to happen. It’s just the nature of sport. There’s no hard feelings or anything personal. This is their job and we’re trying to win ballgames. We’re trying to put the right combinations out there.”
  • In an interview with Kelly Iko of The Athletic, former Rockets guard John Wall talked about mentoring the team’s young backcourt and his relationship with head coach Stephen Silas, among other topics. Wall signed with the Clippers over the summer after being bought out by Houston, and is averaging 11.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.7 APG and 1.1 APG through 15 games (22.1 MPG) as Los Angeles’ backup point guard.