CJ McCollum and his not-so-subtle pregame reminder pays off in big night vs. Lakers

usatsi_8960576.jpg

CJ McCollum and his not-so-subtle pregame reminder pays off in big night vs. Lakers

It was a mostly silent Moda Center when CJ McCollum took the court about two hours before Saturday’s Trail Blazers game. The music had yet to start blaring from the speakers above, and there were only a limited amount of players on the court.

It was quiet enough to hear McCollum engage in what would be an important conversation … with himself.

“Get up!” McCollum told himself as he attempted a shot.

The next shot, it was the same thing. “Get up!’’

And so it went for the next 15, 20 minutes.

 “Get up!” … Swish ... “Get up!” ... Swish.

Nearly every shot was accompanied by a reminder to both get arc under his shot, and lift from his legs.

“Sometimes, my shot is a little flat,’’ McCollum said. “I’m shooting more of a line drive, so I just remind myself that I’ve got to get it up.’’

The pregame reminders seemed to work: McCollum hit his first four shots in the first 2:25 of the game to set the tone for the Blazers’ 108-96 win against the Lakers.

All told, McCollum had 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three-point range as the Blazers (7-10) won for the third time in four games.

McCollum, who is averaging 20.4 points while shooting 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range, says he often talks to himself during shooting routines. Usually, he talks to himself in his mind during morning sessions at the team’s practice facility. Other times, he is more audible. Either way, he find the personal reminders offer “positive reinforcement.”

 “We shoot so many shots that sometimes, you baby it, hold back a little bit,’’ McCollum said. “So I remind myself to get it up, let it go.’’

On Saturday, he more than let it go. He scored 19 of his 28 points in the first half, when he made 8-of-12 shots. The early spurt, when he scored the Blazers’ first nine points, was so emphatic that his teammates couldn’t help but notice.

His backcourt mate, Damian Lillard, said he knew exactly what to do when he saw McCollum’s start.

“Ride it out,’’ Lillard said. “Try to find him as much as I can. I think we all understand CJ is a guy who can run off a bunch of points at a time. At the start of the game, we saw that he hit that first one, so I kept trying to call plays for him and find him in transition.’’

That early connection between Lillard and McCollum piggybacked off a pregame conversation between the two. McCollum said Lillard told him he needed to be aggressive against the Lakers. And when McCollum hit his first couple of shots, he said he flashed Lillard a look that included a knowing smile, a nod that he was feeling it.

“And he was OK with that,’’ McCollum said. “That’s what great players do, they don’t just score, they recognize who has the hot hand.’’

A hot hand that perhaps was ignited by a little pregame conversation with himself.

Trail Blazers make Brandon Rush deal official

Trail Blazers make Brandon Rush deal official

The Portland Trail Blazers have signed guard/forward Brandon Rush to a 10-day contract, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

A nine-year NBA veteran, Rush (6-6, 220) holds career averages of 6.8 points (42.6% FG, 40.2% 3-PT, 70.6% FT), 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 481 games (163 starts) playing for Indiana, Golden State, Utah and Minnesota. Rush played 47 games (33 starts) for the Timberwolves during the 2016-17 season, averaging 4.2 points (37.4% FG, 38.6% 3-PT, 72.2% FT), 2.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 21.9 minutes.

Rush was originally selected by the Trail Blazers with the 13th pick of the 2008 NBA draft before being traded to the Indiana Pacers.

He will wear No. 21 for the Trail Blazers.

Woj: Trail Blazers sign Brandon Rush to 10 day contract

usatsi_9998598_147386290_lowres.jpg
USATI

Woj: Trail Blazers sign Brandon Rush to 10 day contract

A minor move for the Trail Blazers is being reported tonight from Adrian Wojnarowski:

 

Damian Lillard: 'I'm as good as any point guard in this league'

usatsi_10615313_147386290_lowres.jpg
USATI

Damian Lillard: 'I'm as good as any point guard in this league'

Posted today on ESPN's YouTube channel is a Rachel Nichols sitdown with Damian Lillard. From the YouTube description:
"Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard sits down with Rachel Nichols, saying "I'm as good as any point guard in this league," addressing his return to the NBA All-Star Game, and talking about meeting with team owner Paul Allen to talk about becoming a title contender."

Enjoy: 

 

Damian Lillard represents well in All-Star Game

Damian Lillard represents well in All-Star Game

Damian Lillard got some early run in the 2018 All-Star game, logging nine minutes of playing time for Team Steph in the first half where he put up seven points, grabbed two boards and dished out an assists. Lillard's lone made three pointer in the first half was a deep one from the logo.

In the second half, Lillard turned it up another notch including two more three pointers and a nice fadaway jumper. Lillard was taken out of the game with about six minutes to go and finished with 21 points on 9 of 14 shooting with three rebounds and two assists. His 20 minutes of playing time was a solid contribution and when he exited the game, his 21 points was tied for the game high with LeBron James. Team LeBron made a big come back late in the fourth quarter (when teams actually started playing defense)  and ended up with the 148-145 win. 

For a complete recap on Damian's All-Star journey, be sure to check out The Bridge (live 6pm) and Trail Blazers Outsiders (live 7pm) on Monday night!

 

Maybe Kerr should have let the players coach...

usatsi_10614635_147386290_lowres.jpg
USATI

Maybe Kerr should have let the players coach...

The Blazers head into the All-Star break with a huge win over the Golden State Warriors at Moda Center! Damian Lillard led the way 44 points as the Blazers came out hot in the 1st quarter and hung on for the win. 

Box Score: Portland 123, Golden State 117

Rapid Reaction:

The curious case of Jusuf Nurkic

The curious case of Jusuf Nurkic

It seems that suddenly Nurkic Fever has turned into Nurkic Flu. And it's spreading like wildfire.

Once the darling of Portland fans, Portland center Jusuf Nurkic has become a Twitter punching bag and a controversial figure. This seems to be sparked by his absence from both the Portland lineup and his recent media availabilities. And of course there is a growing wave of discontent based on Nurkic's recent play, too. His lack of consistency has been maddening and it seems to have finally worn out the patience of fans, coaches and media. Probably even his teammates.

Let's make a few things clear right off the bat. Nurkic is averaging 14 points, 8 rebounds and nearly 2 assists per game. That's not bad and I'm not sure where else the Trail Blazers could find a center who could chalk up those statistics. And oh yes, he's still just 23 years old.

But there is more, of course. He is shooting only .479 from the field this season, pretty terrible for a man who takes most of his shots in the paint. And he's at an incredibly terrible .442 within three feet of the basket -- a career low. The Trail Blazers often take great pains to go to him early in games in an effort to get him off to a good start but he often responds as he did against Utah Sunday -- by missing his first four shots, three of them virtual layups. That's a discouraging situation for Nurkic and his team.

Why is this happening? I don't think anyone knows. My guess is that his coaches are at wit's end trying to unlock the secret to finding the whereabouts of the Nurkic who looked so promising through 20 games last season. After a summer in which he lost weight and came back promising to be tougher and more effective he only rarely reaches the level of play we saw so briefly last season. He appears tentative and contact averse.

He often seems to be taking a casual approach to his game, not finishing easy shots and avoiding contact. There are times when he just doesn't seem to be into the whole thing.

He is listed as "questionable" for tonight's game in Moda Center against the Golden State Warriors and there couldn't be a more fitting description of him right now. He's become questionable on a lot of levels.

But if he's hurt, he's hurt. It's careless to question that. But he does seem to get injured frequently, which has led to many questioning his toughness. I must say, as the guy who was screaming "Nurkic Fever" so frequently last season, I've fallen into that category. He's also appeared pouty, which was his reputation in Denver.

Could nagging injuries be a part of his disappointing season? I have no idea. But I do know this, for a player heading into free agency -- even restricted free agency -- he's not doing himself a lot of good. In a summer when it appears the free-agent money pool will be shallow, next season he may not end up earning anywhere close to what he probably anticipated.

Who is Jusuf Nurkic? Right now, I don't think many people have a clue.

And he's running out of games this season to show us.

Greg Oden making a comeback...

usatsi_8222155.jpg
USA Today Images

Greg Oden making a comeback...

The BIG3 announced today that former Trail Blazer Greg Oden will be participating in the BIG3 Draft Combine.

Oden has agreed to join the BIG3 draft pool with the league getting set to enter its second season this summer.

The BIG3 league is a 3-on-3 pro basketball league that was founded by Ice Cube in January 2017 featuring All-Stars, Hall of Famers and a few World Champions.  The league currently features eight teams who travel from city to city with all eight teams facing off in tournament style play through the summer months.   

CBS Sports reporter Colin Ward-Henninger is reporting that Baron Davis, Metta World Peace, Nate Robinson and Carlos Boozer are among a few other players that have signed up for the 2018 season.