Ripples are being sent through the shoe industry with word that Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum is on the verge of leaving Nike to sign a deal with the Chinese company Li-Ning.
McCollum, who wore a pair of Li-Ning shoes in the Blazers’ preseason game against Phoenix on Tuesday, was asked after the game if he was switching sponsorships.
“In negotiations,’’ McCollum said with a big smile as he left the locker room.
One person who helped McCollum with those negotiations? Teammate Evan Turner, who has been a Li-Ning client since 2010.
Turner this summer spent 12 days in China on a Li-Ning shoe tour, during which he often had Face Time chats with McCollum.
“I told (Li-Ning) if you want to talk to him, I wouldn’t come to him with a BS offer the first time around and close his ears off,’’ Turner said on Wednesday.
Hearing Turner talk, it appears a deal has been reached.
“I guess they got the situation right, the money right, and I think CJ will be a great person for the brand,’’ Turner said Wednesday. “He’s a talented individual on and off the court, so I think he will help the brand a lot.’’
On Thursday morning, however, McCollum said no deal has been reached.
"There is mutual interest,'' McCollum said. "Still in negotiations ... but my contract with Nike is up.''
McCollum would be among the higher profile athletes to sign with the Beijing company, which is founded by legendary Chinese gymnast Li-Ning.
In 2012, megastar Dwyane Wade signed with the company, which came after Shaquille O’Neal inked a deal in 2006. Other NBA players who wear Li-Ning include Turner, Jose Calderon and Glenn Robinson III.
“It’s getting better every single year,’’ Turner said of Li-Ning. “It has a big presence in the Chinese market, which is huge for a player and your own personal branding because you can multiply that more so than in America. With a kid like CJ, and the talent he has, he will be able to do that worldwide.’’
McCollum, who is the first year of a four-year, $106 million contract with the Blazers, is coming off a career-year in which he averaged 23.0 points, 3.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range and an NBA-best 91.2 percent from the free-throw line.
Today's Blazers' links:
Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest reminds us that Damian Lillard has some big off the court news on Friday.
Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest writes that Terry Stotts has some tough decsions ahead.
Mike Richman writes about Evan Turner and his surprise at initiating offense on Tuesday.
Casey Holdahl of trailblazers.com writes about Jusuf Nurkic's weight loss.