Blazers' CJ McCollum leans on preparation, mindset during late-season slump

Blazers' CJ McCollum leans on preparation, mindset during late-season slump

DENVER – At the most important time of the Trail Blazers’ season, CJ McCollum is struggling. 

His shooting, in particular his three-pointers, is drastically off. He has had rashes of turnovers in key games. And in recent pressure-packed games, he has been notably absent. 

To all of this, McCollum shrugs.

“I mean, you want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season but you can’t get caught up in the poor performances or the great performances,’’ McCollum said. “It comes with the territory. All you can do is just give it your best, prepare, watch film, and figure out ways to attack.’’ 

He is almost robotic in his response, void of emotion, and it is by design. 

He lives by a state of mind called “apatheia,” a concept he adopted after reading a book he now often carries with him: “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. Apatheia is described as “the kind of calm equanimity that comes with the absence of irrational or extreme emotions.’’

Emotion, he has found, has no place in his game. Being upset that he went 4-for-15 and scored 8 points in the Blazers’ winning-streak-ending loss to Houston will not help. Pouting over his 3-for-19 and seven points in a key game at New Orleans will change nothing. And obsessing over his current 4-for-24 slump from three-point range might make it worse.

“Failing doesn’t scare me,’’ McCollum said. “Failing is part of succeeding, so I don’t get caught up in emotions and all that stuff.’’

This emotionless approach, which focuses more on preparation than results, can be traced to his youth, in Canton, Ohio. 

As a sixth grader, McCollum stood at the free throw line in overtime with a chance to win the game. 

He missed both free throws.

He cried – “oh, absolutely, I cried” -- and he remained distraught for days.

“It affected me. For a long time,’’ McCollum said.

It bothered him to lose, but more deeply, it tortured him that he was prepared for the moment, yet still failed. As a sixth grader, McCollum would make sure he would make 200 free throws a day. 

“When I missed those game-winning free throws, that’s what changed my perception of everything,’’ he said from the Trail Blazers’ shootaround Monday in Denver.

In the coming months, through talks with his brother and parents, he would learn that basketball could be a cruel game. Sometimes, they implored, success was not always commensurate with the work put in. 

Also, McCollum would soon come to subscribe to the notion that emotion had no place in the game. 

Those days from his youth have formed what he is today for the Trail Blazers – a steely, emotionless shooting guard who spends more time worrying about  preparation and analytics than his results.

“You have to live with the result when you put the work in,’’ McCollum says. 

Most would think that work McCollum speaks of involves shooting. And lots of it. And they would be correct. 

But that is only a sliver of the preparation McCollum puts in.

**

McCollum says he is hesitant to reveal his process, because it is his job to be prepared. But when he goes into the detail, it becomes more understandable why he speaks and reacts robotically more than emotionally. 

He charts every shot he takes and if he misses, he notes whether it was long or short, or wide left or right.  He also charts whether he shot with the seams of the ball or against the seams. 

“I have on film my last 100 makes and misses,’’ McCollum said. “I can tell you why I missed, who was guarding me, and where I’ve taken every shot this season.’’

In the Blazers’ recent loss in Houston, when he went 7-for-25 from the field, including 2-for-9 from three-point range, it was almost as if he was back on the line in Canton as a sixth grader. 

In re-telling the overtime free throw story, McCollum briefly sidetracked to that Houston game. 

“It’s like when you work on certain things over and over. I work on floaters, pull ups … and in that Houston game, I missed five pull ups at the right elbow. Uncontested,’’ McCollum said. “I work on that stuff all the time, so when (misses) happen, I just shake my head and think that was crazy. Because I know how many reps I get from the elbows. How many step-backs I practice and make, both contested and uncontested.’’

At the end of the game, when he looked at his shooting line, he was stoic.

“I live with the result, man,’’ McCollum said. “I know who I am. I know what I can be out there. I have confidence in myself. I don’t get discouraged over a few poor shooting nights. I don’t get overly excited over a few great shooting nights.’’

For the season, McCollum is averaging 21.5 points while shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from three-point range - all below his averages from last season.

"I haven’t shot the ball well, especially from three. Happens sometimes. I’ve gotten good looks,'' he says. "But I don't try to get caught up in it because it's such a long season. But the timing ... I have to live with the results.''

**

It’s not like McCollum has been totally absent over the Blazers’ push into third place in the Western Conference. 

He was brilliant in the Blazers’ win at Oklahoma City, scoring 34 points, including a tough 18-footer - the game-sealing dagger -- with Russell Westbrook’s hand in his face.

It was after that game that Damian Lillard emphatically congratulated McCollum on the court, thumping McCollum’s chest and grabbing his head between his hands while relaying a message. Lillard said it was the most demonstrative he has ever been with McCollum on the court. 

“It was a big game for us, a lot on the line … and he made big time shots – and I was telling him, that’s what good teams and top players do,’’ Lillard said. “The shots that he was making, not everybody can make those shots. And for us to be our best, we both have to be able to get stuff done. That’s what I was telling him: That’s how we have to get stuff done.’’

And when Lillard missed the game at Memphis to be in Portland for the birth of his son, McCollum tried to pick up the slack, scoring 42 points. 

Now, the Blazers need him again. 

Heading into tonight’s game at Denver, Portland (48-32) holds a one-game lead over Utah for third place with two games remaining. If the Blazers win one of their remaining two games, they earn home court advantage in the first round. If they win both games, they are the third seed. Lose both games, and they could drop to fifth and open the playoffs on the road. 

In other words, this is no time for McCollum to disappear. After all, it was McCollum who said after his big performance against the Thunder “that’s why they pay me the big bucks” referring to his four-year, $106 million contract.

**

As the Trail Blazers’ shootaround wrapped up Monday in Denver and the players gathered their belongings, McCollum was just finishing up a rather rigorous shooting routine. 

Breathing hard, he came to the sideline and tried to explain how he can remain so measured and calm amid an intense playoff race … all while slumping.

“Missed shots and poor performance isn’t because of a lack of preparation, I can assure you and the fans that,’’ McCollum said. “As a fan of players, and teams, I understand the frustration. However, it’s like studying for a test and failing. Sometimes, it happens. The best learn from it, improve upon it and press forward.’’

He again points to the Holiday book, “The Obstacle is the Way” as a guiding principle in dealing with problems. It is a discipline, McCollum recites, achieved in three different steps: Perception, which involves your attitude and approach to how you look at problems; Action which involves what you are willing to do to overcome the obstacle and turn it into opportunity; and Will, which is having the inner willpower to overcome. 

When he heads to the Pepsi Center tonight, he says he doesn’t think if he will make or miss shots, but whether he has prepared adequately. 

“It’s a long season, and sometimes  it doesn’t go in,’’ McCollum said. “It’s unfortunate, and you want to help your team every night, but you have to be comfortable with who you are and understanding that sometimes, you aren’t going to play well. It’s not that you didn’t prepare, it’s just that you didn’t play well.’’

He also know through all his data – the shot charts, the shots with the seam and without the seam, the misses to the left and the misses to the right – that everything evens out. For every 3-for-19 shooting night, there is also a 10-for-15.

Will that big shooting night come in Denver? Against Utah? In the playoffs? Or all of the above? McCollum again shrugs.

“I go do my job. And sometimes it looks pretty sometimes it looks (crappy),’’ McCollum said. “I have to be able to accept that and I have to be able to accept criticism that I haven’t played well. I know it. I read the stats. In the game I shoot a shot and I’m like:  dang, I’m supposed to make that.

“But for me, what am I gonna cry about it? Pout about it? What’s that going to do? It’s going to hurt the team,’’ he said. 

So, he will shoot tonight in Denver and live with the results, while a fan base hopes for the sharp-shooting McCollum to return. 

“No one’s expectations of me are higher than my own,’’ McCollum said.

And he has the data to prove it.

Jimmy Butler mentioned as trade deadline candidate for Portland to keep an eye on by B/R

Jimmy Butler mentioned as trade deadline candidate for Portland to keep an eye on by B/R

It's the middle of August, so NBA news is a little slow but Bleacher Report put out a fun article about one player each team should be looking at when the trade deadline approches next season.

For the Trail Blazers, they picked Minnesota forward Jimmy Butler:

Jimmy Butler may be unhappy in Minnesota, and although adding him at the deadline creates a risk he'll bounce after opting out of his deal, it's possible Portland is ready to gamble. Ideally, the Blazers could build a package around Evan Turner and a first-round pick, but that'll only work if Butler makes it perfectly clear he's not going to re-sign with the Wolves.

Also within the article are mentions of CJ McCollum (for Detroit) and Evan Turner (for Sacramento):

"CJ McCollum and Turner for Griffin and Stanley Johnson works under the CBA, and it'd swap Griffin onto a roster that at least needs forwards. McCollum's arrival would signal the departure of Reggie Jackson, which would also be fine."

In regards to Turner to Sacramento...
"In this scenario, the Blazers are attaching a future first-rounder to Turner in a swap that brings back Kosta Koufos' expiring $8.7 million salary."

You can read the full breakdown of every team at Bleacher Report. 
 

CJ McCollum: I'm Trying Jennifer

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USA Today

CJ McCollum: I'm Trying Jennifer

Social media was its usual self on Wednesday, blowing up after a video surfaced of Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum talking about superteams on China Central Television (CCTV). Asked about his thoughts on players like Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins joining the Warriors to chase rings, McCollum said "I would never do anything of that nature. I think it's disgusting. I'm not built like those guys, I was raised differently. 

Seems innocent enough, but this is where social media took over. McCollum responded to a tweet, saying "Y’all stay bringing up old stuff. Yall got me out here looking like a bitter ex. 1 of the best teams ever assembled W/ 2 players you could argue are top 15 greatest to lace them up. 4 hall of "famers w/ another one on the way. I’m happy stop making me look like a scorn man sheesh"

Of course, NBA fans had to troll McCollum. Enter Jennifer. She tweeted back at McCollum "Win a playoff game then talk." His response has since gone viral - 

"I'm trying Jennifer."

Rip City fans went wild. People were asking about making shirts, banners, and anything else. It almost became a rallying cry. Even McCollum himself had fun with it.

Ask and you shall receive. 

CJ McCollum makes B/R's list of NBA sidekicks who could star in a different situation

CJ McCollum makes B/R's list of NBA sidekicks who could star in a different situation

Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley posted a blog today listing out "NBA Sidekicks Who Could Star in Different Situations."

On his short list was none other than Portland Trail Blazer CJ McCollum. Buckley writes:

Inside the lines, though, McCollum can mostly go step-for-step with his higher-profile backcourt mate. Because McCollum plays the Robin role for the Portland Trail Blazers, the volume edge goes Lillard's way. But McCollum has had the higher field-goal and three-point percentages each of the last three seasons, and his career slash line comfortably wins both of those levels.

You can read the full story, and the full analysis of McCollum's potential in the B/R story. Of note, McCollum was the only Western Conference player to make the list. 

Over his five year NBA career, McCollum is averaging 17.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assits per game while shooting an impressive 40.8% from three and 84.2% from the free throw line. 

Blazer fans love them some Damian and CJ backcourt action and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has repeatedly said he will not break up the backcourt, which seems to sit just fine with fans and Lillard and McCollum who have developed into quite the dynamic duo for Portland. 

 

Nerding out on Trail Blazer schedule analytics

Nerding out on Trail Blazer schedule analytics

After any professional team has its regular season schedule released, it’s time for the analytics gurus to shine with the various stats and information out there about when, where, and how a team will play a game on any given day. While I am not a stat nerd, the NBA did some of the work for me so let's dive into some interesting stats that were pointed out in a document sent over by the NBA along with the team's schedule as well as some various observations from our first day of analyzing it. 

A COMPARISON OF BACK-TO-BACK GAMES
Overall the NBA has one fewer back-to-back game on average for all 32 teams. 
As for the Blazers, with their 12 total back-to-back contests, they have three less than last season. 
Breaking down those 12 back-to-backs includes three pairs where no travel is involved, five pairs with short travel (under 750 miles) and four pairs with longer travel (over 750 miles).

FRIST 10 GAMES (HOME/AWAY SPLIT)
HOME: 6   AWAY: 4

LAST 10 GAMES (HOME/AWAY SPLIT)
HOME: 4   AWAY: 6

A BREAKDOWN OF “TIRED” & "FRESH" GAMES
The Blazers will have 10 total games (same as last season) that will be “tired” games.

On the flip side, the Blazers have 8 "fresh" games for a Net rating of -2 (last year they were -1)

*Team is considered “tired” if it plays the day before and its opponent does not.
*Team is considered “fresh” if it did not play the day before and its opponent did.

LONGEST HOME STAND
11 days, 6 games from November 1st through November 11th

LONGEST ROAD TRIP
13 days, 7 games from February 21st through March 5th

The Trail Blazers will travel the most miles in the season with a total of 54,333 miles in distance traveled.

The entire 82 game Trail Blazer schedule is out!

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NBCS NW

The entire 82 game Trail Blazer schedule is out!

Schedule Links:
Read - Jamie Hudson breaks down the key parts of the season
Watch - The road trip that could define the season

The Full Schedule:

Thu. 18-Oct-18 L.A. Lakers 7:30 PM (TNT)

Sat. 20-Oct-18 San Antonio 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 22-Oct-18 Washington 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 25-Oct-18 at Orlando 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 27-Oct-18 at Miami 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 29-Oct-18 at Indiana 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 30-Oct-18 at Houston 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Thu. 1-Nov-18 New Orleans 7:30 PM (TNT) 

Sat. 3-Nov-18 L.A. Lakers 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 4-Nov-18 Minnesota 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 6-Nov-18 Milwaukee 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 8-Nov-18 L.A. Clippers 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 11-Nov-18 Boston 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 14-Nov-18 at L.A. Lakers 7:30 PM (ESPN)

Fri. 16-Nov-18 at Minnesota 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 18-Nov-18 at Washington 3:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 20-Nov-18 at New York 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 21-Nov-18 at Milwaukee 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 23-Nov-18 at Golden State 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 25-Nov-18 L.A. Clippers 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 28-Nov-18 Orlando 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 30-Nov-18 Denver 7:30 PM ESPN (NBCS NW)
 

Sun. 2-Dec-18 at San Antonio 5:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 4-Dec-18 at Dallas 5:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 6-Dec-18 Phoenix 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 8-Dec-18 Minnesota 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 11-Dec-18 at Houston 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 12-Dec-18 at Memphis 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 14-Dec-18 Toronto 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 17-Dec-18 at L.A. Clippers 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 19-Dec-18 Memphis 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 21-Dec-18 Utah 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 23-Dec-18 Dallas 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 25-Dec-18 at Utah 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN) 

Thu. 27-Dec-18 at Golden State 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 29-Dec-18 Golden State 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 30-Dec-18 Philadelphia 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Tue. 1-Jan-19 at Sacramento 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 4-Jan-19 Oklahoma City 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)

Sat. 5-Jan-19 Houston 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 7-Jan-19 New York 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 9-Jan-19 Chicago 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 11-Jan-19 Charlotte 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 13-Jan-19 at Denver 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 14-Jan-19 at Sacramento 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 16-Jan-19 Cleveland 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 18-Jan-19 New Orleans 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)

Mon. 21-Jan-19 at Utah 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 22-Jan-19 at Oklahoma City 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 24-Jan-19 at Phoenix 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 26-Jan-19 Atlanta 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 30-Jan-19 Utah 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)
 

Tue. 5-Feb-19 Miami 7:30 PM (TNT)

Thu. 7-Feb-19 San Antonio 7:30 PM (TNT)

Sun. 10-Feb-19 at Dallas 12:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 11-Feb-19 at Oklahoma City 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 13-Feb-19 Golden State 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 21-Feb-19 at Brooklyn 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 23-Feb-19 at Philadelphia 10:00 AM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 25-Feb-19 at Cleveland 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 27-Feb-19 at Boston 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Fri. 1-Mar-19 at Toronto 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sun. 3-Mar-19 at Charlotte 10:00 AM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 5-Mar-19 at Memphis 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Thu. 7-Mar-19 Oklahoma City 7:30 PM (TNT)

Sat. 9-Mar-19 Phoenix 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 12-Mar-19 at L.A. Clippers 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 15-Mar-19 at New Orleans 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 16-Mar-19 at San Antonio 5:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 18-Mar-19 Indiana 7:30 PM ESPN (NBCS NW)

Wed. 20-Mar-19 Dallas 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 23-Mar-19 Detroit 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Mon. 25-Mar-19 Brooklyn 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 27-Mar-19 at Chicago 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 29-Mar-19 at Atlanta 4:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Sat. 30-Mar-19 at Detroit 4:00 PM (NBCS NW)
 

Mon. 1-Apr-19 at Minnesota 5:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 3-Apr-19 Memphis 7:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Fri. 5-Apr-19 at Denver 7:30 PM (NBCS NW and ESPN)

Sun. 7-Apr-19 Denver 6:00 PM (NBCS NW)

Tue. 9-Apr-19 at L.A. Lakers 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

Wed. 10-Apr-19 Sacramento 7:30 PM (NBCS NW)

The Hammer is showing off this summer

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USA Today

The Hammer is showing off this summer

Trail Blazers big man Meyers Leonard has been putting in a ton of work on the court this offseason and doing some serious damage to innocent rims around the country. Just check out this clip that Chris Grenham uploaded to Twitter. Marcus Smart with the full-court pass to Leonard, and The Hammer finishes the alley-oop in style.  BOOM SHAKALAKA

Trail Blazers a part of marquee games this NBA season

Trail Blazers a part of marquee games this NBA season

The countdown to the 2018-19 NBA season is on!

News is starting to trickle out about the NBA schedule and the Portland Trail Blazers will be playing in a couple of big events this season.

The Blazers longest active win streak over any one team in franchise history will be on the line on Day One of the regular season...

Yes, Portland’s season will start off with a bang!  The Blazers welcome in LeBron James and the LA Lakers to tip-off the regular season on Thursday, October 18th.  Blazer fans will be the first to see what LeBron can do with a young Lakers team that now also includes Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaValle McGee.

Last season, Portland split its series vs. LeBron and the Cavs, with each team winning at home.

And get ready for this Blazers fans — The Trail Blazers have a Christmas Day Game! Portland will travel to Utah to face the Jazz on December 25th.

This marks the first Christmas Day game for both teams in several years. Portland hasn’t played on Christmas since 2010, while the featured game for Utah dates all the way back to 1997.

Historically, the Blazers have had a lot of success on the December holiday, with a 14-3 overall record.  However, in the most recent X-mas matchup, Portland lost at Golden State, 109-102.

Just something to keep in mind, the home team is 142–75 in Christmas games.

So now that the ‘big games’ have been released, you only have to wait a few more days for the entire 2018-19 regular season slate.

Report: Trail Blazers to play Jazz on Christmas Day

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USA Today Images

Report: Trail Blazers to play Jazz on Christmas Day

According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, the Portland Trail Blazers will be a part of the Christmas Day slate with Portland traveling to Utah.

 

Al-Farouq Aminu with solid outing in NBA Africa Game

Al-Farouq Aminu with solid outing in NBA Africa Game

The NBA Africa Game took place this year in South Africa with a star studded lineup of Team Africa vs. Team World. 

The Portland Trail Blazers will represented by Al-Farouq Aminu, who is from Nigeria, who put up a solid stat line of 2 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals over the course of 20 minutes of playing time. 

In the end Team World would come away with the victory, led by 23 points from Danilo Gallinari. Joel Embiid led Team Africa in scoring with 24. 

Check out the game highlights above and you can see some of Aminu's highlights embeded below.