The 2021/22 season has been the most difficult of CJ McCollum‘s nine-year career, but he has excelled since being traded to the Pelicans, according to Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com.
As Kennedy details, McCollum had only played under one coach and one general manager in his first eight seasons, but the Blazers “mutually agreed” to part ways with Terry Stotts and the rest of his staff last June, then fired president of basketball operations Neil Olshey in early December after a misconduct investigation. A day after Olshey was dismissed, McCollum suffered a collapsed lung.
McCollum also became a father for the first time in January when COVID cases were spiking, dealt with trade rumors for a few months prior to being dealt to New Orleans, and then had a bout of COVID-19 earlier this month. Despite the chaotic circumstances, McCollum has averaged a stellar 25.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.2 steals on .501/.384/.720 shooting through 19 games with his new club.
“I’m excited, man. I’m thankful to be here,” McCollum said. “I’ve said it a thousand times, but I like what we’re building here, I like the way we’re playing, I like the way we’re executing, and the sky’s the limit for us.”
At 32-43, the Pelicans are currently the No. 9 seed in the West, holding a half-game lead over the No. 10 Lakers (31-43) and a one-game lead over the No. 11 Spurs (31-44).
Here’s more on the Pelicans:
- The rookie trio of Herbert Jones, Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy could go down as one of the best in franchise history, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. Jones and Alvarado have been rotation regulars and defensive stalwarts throughout the season, while Murphy has been up-and-down. He had one of his best games of the season during the team’s win over the Lakers on Sunday, scoring 21 points on 7-12 shooting in 25 minutes. “It’s almost like night and day, honestly. Just getting comfortable, getting a lot of reps and just trusting the process,” Murphy said, per Guillory. “Going into the season, if I’m being realistic, I had a lot of expectations for myself, especially with summer league and preseason. Just staying even through all that stuff, through the lows, that’s the best way to do it.”
- Christian Clark, Scott Kushner and Rod Walker of NOLA.com explore the team’s ceiling for this season following Sunday’s 116-108 victory over the Lakers.
- Center Jonas Valanciunas said Alvarado earned his new promotion, Clark tweets. “Very happy. He deserved it. He’s been working hard. Maybe at times, he’s been acting like a vet. But he deserved it.” Alvarado was promoted to a four-year, standard deal on Monday after playing the entire season on a two-way contract.
- In a separate article for NOLA.com, Clark writes that owner Gayle Benson was recently asked about the possibility of building a new arena for the Pelicans, but was non-committal in her reply. “You know, that’s in the future, we’re trying to look for now,” Benson said. “We’re talking about it, but we’ve been talking about it. Hopefully, at the right time we’ll make that decision.” Clark notes the team’s lease for the Smoothie King Center expires June 30, 2024, but the Pelicans can exercise a five-year option to remain in the arena at any point prior to the expiration date.