Blazers Outsiders: What to expect on his long road trip

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USA Today

Blazers Outsiders: What to expect on his long road trip

The Blazers have the unenviable task of starting the "second half" of the season with a seven-game road trip. The trip will see them hit the road for two weeks, play games in two countries, and have tipoffs ranging from 1pm to 8pm. Needless to say, it's going to be an exhausting trip. 

The trip starts on Thursday against the Brooklyn Nets (30-29), then sees the Blazers take on the 76ers (37-21), Cavaliers (12-46), Celtics (37-21), Raptors (43-16), Hornets (27-30), and end with the Memphis Grizzlies (23-36). 

It may not seem like it, but this is a pivotal trip for Portland. The Blazers need to finish the season 16-9 to hit the magical 50 win mark. If the Blazers hit 50 they will almost be a lock to be the four seed in the west. 

Not only will 50 wins help them lock in the four seed, but it could even get them the three seed. Oklahoma City (37-20) needs to finish the season 13-12 to get to the 50 win mark. While that may sound easy for a team like the Thunder, consider that 19 of their final 25 games are against current playoff teams. One small slip up and the door is open for the Blazers. If that happens, the Blazers needs to jump right through. 

A winning record on this road trip will be a great start.

4-3 should be the goal for the Blazers. Anything better is great, anything worse is a step in the wrong direction. There are some tough teams on this trip, but they are all winnable. 4-3 may be the goal, but 5-2 is certainly achievable. 

The Nets, Cavs, Hornets, and Grizzlies should be wins, while the Celtics and Raptors look like losses on paper. The 76ers are a wildcard. Philly is a tough team, but without Joel Embiid in the lineup they are a lot easier to take down. The Trail Blazers can pick this up and go 5-2.

So much hinges on this trip. Finish above .500 and you continue to move closer to locking up a top seed. However, go below .500 and you could easily come back home as a sixth or seventh seed.

First things first, the Blazers need to set the tone with a win over the Nets on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 4:30pm, with coverage beginning at 3:30pm on NBC Sports Northwest.


 

Right now for the Trail Blazers, if you play well, you play more

Right now for the Trail Blazers, if you play well, you play more

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts has found himself in an interesting situation after CJ McCollum’s recent knee injury has left the player on the sidelines for an as-yet-undetermined time.

Suddenly Stotts has those 34.1 minutes per game that McCollum has been playing, at his disposal. And he has several players worthy of playing them.

He has decisions to make. And those decisions are based on a wide variety of factors that are made more difficult because the Trail Blazer coach has a lot of options, many players capable of quality minutes. There is a lot to consider.

“I like guys having a run out there,” Stotts said Tuesday after his team’s practice. “I want to keep Dame’s minutes under control, who plays well with who else, some of it is matchup driven by the other team. It just depends.

“I don’t know if it’s difficult, I guess I have to take into account more things, probably.

“I do that twofold. One, if a guy is playing well -- and if the unit is playing well. Like I said (after Monday’s game), Zach played 15 straight minutes in the first half because he was doing well and that unit was doing well.

“I kept him in. Same thing with Chief in the third quarter. Chief got on a roll so he played the entire third quarter, and the team was doing well. When things aren’t going well, then decisions have to be made.”

And that would be why Collins played 15 first-half minutes but only seven in the second half.

“If Chief hadn’t played so well in the third quarter I was prepared to go back to Zach,” Stotts said. “But that wouldn’t have been fair to Chief.”

Damian Lillard, the team’s captain, thinks along the same lines as his coach. And probably the way most players would like the situation to be played out:

“I’m sure it’s tough,” Lillard said. “But if I were the coach, I would just play whoever is having the better game. That’s who would be out there. Next game might be a different guy, but that’s fair. That’s the way I’d do it.”

Stotts likes to stay with a player through the end of a quarter if he and the team are playing well. Does that mean he believes in what’s become a controversial topic – the “hot hand” theory, in which people believe players who have made a couple of shots in a row are more likely to make their next shot?

“It’s always a tough thing when a certain player has it going – whether it’s Dame or CJ or anyone – you let them play the quarter,” Stotts said. “You can’t take them out when they are on a roll.

“It’s easy to say leave him in now, but it does have consequences down the road -- rotation of other players, extending of his minutes.

“I believe in confidence. When guys are in a groove and confident of their shot I believe in that. But I always know it’s going to come to an end.

“A lot times when a guy is on a roll I’ll keep him in there until he misses a shot.

“To me, a hot hand sounds like poker. That’s more luck and superstition. But when guys are feeling good, biorhythms are good, shots tend to go in more.”

Is Nurkic's foul trouble affecting him or the team?

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Is Nurkic's foul trouble affecting him or the team?

When you have a nickname like “Bosnian Beast,” you expect aggressive play on the court.

So, it’s not really a surprise that Trail Blazers big Jusuf Nurkic has had at least three fouls in his last five games and has fouled out in two of those past five games.

After Monday’s win over the Pacers, the Blazers got back to work at practice Tuesday afternoon. Nurkic, who fouled out against Indiana with 90 seconds remaining, spent time looking at his fouls on film. 

The Trail Blazers center spends day after day watching film to review his fouls, whether it’s a foul at the rim or a moving screen. He has also spent time with former referee Don Vaden trying to figure out how he can avoid getting into foul trouble. 

“There’s still a lot of room to grow," Nurkic said. 

Last season, the Trail Blazers hired Vaden as a consultant for the players and coaching staff to be able to talk with about league rules, officials’ tendencies and more.

Even though, Nurkic often discusses his previous games and fouls with Vaden, it doesn’t mean he is on the same page with him at all times.

“Most of the time I don’t agree with him,” Nurkic said with a smile.

But Nurkic knows it’s a work in progress and he believes he is getting better at arguing less calls.

“I try to do whatever I can to help myself and help [the referees] to understand, you know, I’m still 280 and a big guy,” Nurkic said.

The Trail Blazers starting center understands that officials are not going to see everything, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating.

“I don’t mind if they call a foul on me, but I feel they miss something, but you know, they see it differently and I’m still working on that,” Nurkic said.

The Trail Blazers are 70 games into the season and Nurkic is now seventh in the league in fouls per game with 3.5 fouls.

Nurkic also mentioned that by being so aggressive and picking up a foul here and there, he feels he can help bring the energy level up on the team.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts isn’t convinced that picking up early fouls isn’t impacting Nurkic’s game.

“It’s when he gets fouls early in the game that I think it effects his aggressiveness, obviously it affects the rotation a little bit,” Stotts said.

“Nurk’s just like any player that gets in foul trouble… It probably affects how they play, it affects when you have a good player that you rely on every night, not be able to be on the court for as much as you want, it affects the team,” Stotts added.

As far as total fouls on the season, Nurkic currently has the third-most in the league with 243 behind Karl-Anthony Towns (256) and Patrick Beverley (246).

But for the Trail Blazers captain who is running pick and rolls with Nurkic, Damian Lillard said he doesn’t feel Nurk’s early foul trouble is changing the way he plays.

“I wouldn’t say it’s affecting his game, it might be affecting his minutes," Lillard said. "He’s got to sit earlier than usual or foul out like last night, but he’s just being aggressive. Last night he fouled out trying to set a screen for me. I think he’s fouling out on plays you want to see him make, it’s just an unfortunate whistle, that’s what I think."

Nurkic may be watching film everyday, but the team is not focusing on or worried about him picking up too many fouls.

“A lot of the calls that he gets called for sometimes in the paint and at the rim, the same thing happens to him, it just doesn’t get called, so you don’t want to tell him don’t do this or don’t do that and take away his aggressiveness, because there’s a good chance it won’t be called,” Lillard said.

Lillard also noted that sometimes it’s the guards fault that a big will get whistled for the foul.

“Sometimes they come to set screens for us, we leave early-- they get a moving screen," Lillard said. "Sometimes they’re trying to get an offensive rebound-- they go over somebody’s back, there’s contact-- the get a foul. They’re in positions to get a lot of fouls more than, even us, as guards."

“Bigs get in foul trouble, that’s just what it is,” Lillard said with a smile.

Without CJ McCollum, Blazers still find themselves in the right position

Without CJ McCollum, Blazers still find themselves in the right position

CJ McCollum walked gingerly back into the weight room on Monday night, his left knee cradled in a soft brace and his forehead slightly sweaty from the cardio work on the stationary bike he had just completed before meeting with the media.

About four hours later, Damian Lillard spoke to a similar crowd of television cameras and reporters, his answers landing somewhere between relief and cautious optimism.

That’s what Day 2 of the McCollum’s rehabilitation journey looked like inside the Moda Center. The Blazers announced on Sunday that McCollum had sustained a popliteus strain in his left knee on and that he would be out at least a week before the team’s medical staff will re-evaluate him.

There isn’t a certain timeline for McCollum’s return. He is almost certainly going to miss more than a week, and Lillard has already mentally prepared for a month without McCollum in a uniform.

“Mentally, I don’t want him to have to rush it and when he does come back I want him to be himself and be healthy. So in my mind we going to finish the regular season without him,” Lillard said. “Maybe the last couple games (of the regular season). In my mind that’s how I should think of it. Just knowing that we got to have a great effort for these last 12 games, planning on not having him out there. We’d rather have him healthy and strong in the playoffs than have him come back early and not be himself and maybe aggravate it a little in a way we don’t need him to.”

If any team understands what it’s like to maintain playoff position without a key piece, it might be the team the Blazers beat on Monday night. The Indiana Pacers, who lost All-Star guard Victor Oladipo to a season-ending quadriceps injury on Jan. 23, have refused to give up their hold of court advantage long after many teams would have let go of the rope.

“We played without Victor earlier in the season for 11 games and we knew he was coming back,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “This last injury we had the feeling he may not be coming back and when we found out that he wasn’t, it was definitely a shot because he really changes what you do out on the floor. He kinda helped us establish a style of play on both ends of the floor. So without him it took us a few games to get comfortable and make those adjustments and really focus on who we have as opposed to who we don’t have.”

That’s what the Blazers will have to turn to over the final 12 games of the regular season. They’ll replace McCollum’s scoring by committee with an uptick in minutes and responsibilities for Rodney Hood, Seth Curry and Jake Layman. And Lillard will naturally do more, admitting he will be a little more “hands on” during the stretch run.

When Oladipo went down in January the Pacers dropped four straight, but have gone 13-7 since, falling just one spot from third to fourth in the East without their best player in the lineup. The Blazers can’t afford a learning curve as long or a steep as Indiana’s, but the blueprint the Pacers have mapped out over the past eight weeks remains a valuable one.

That’s why Lillard is preaching patience to his friend and teammate while McCollum is spending his days working out in the pool, shifting his diet to speed up recovery and plowing into rehab with the precision of his mid-range pull-ups.

“I told him I already know he’s going to try to get in a million hours of rehab and do all this stuff,” Lillard said.

“But I told him he should do that. You should be on top of it and stay involved like you always do but just don’t rush back to get to the game. We’re in a great position. We need guys to step up. It’s only going to be better for our team in the long run. So i’ve told him ‘Take your time, don’t rush, get healthy and come back right.”

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks: How and Where to Watch

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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks: How and Where to Watch

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.


GAME DETAILS

Where to Watch: NBC Sports Northwest

Where to Watch on the go: Stream the game live on the new MyTeams App

Tip-Off Time: 7:00 p.m. 

Point spread: Portland -10

NBCS NW Coverage: Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show (6:00 p.m.), Blazers Outsiders Postgame Show (immediately after the postgame show). 

Radio: 620AM Rip City Radio

 

INJURY UPDATES

Portland has listed CJ McCollum (left knee) as out for Wednesday’s game vs. Dallas.

For the Mavericks, J.J. Barea (right Achilles) and Kristaps Porzingis (left knee) are out. Maxi Kleber (left wrist) is questionable.

 

QUICK LINKS

Dwight Jaynes: Trail Blazers get the most (30 points, 15 assists) out of Damian Lillard's 40 minutes

Jamie Hudson: Trail Blazers pass first test without CJ McCollum... Is there reason to rush him back?

Mike Richman: Without CJ McCollum, Blazers still find themselves in the right position

VIDEO: Damian Lillard makes it rain from Mars in win over Pacers

VIDEO: Life without CJ: Reworking the Rotation

 

Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is the app for everything Blazers: games, highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

'It’s Authentic Fan Night on March 25th as the Blazers host the Nets. Buy tickets in the official Authentic Fan Section 320 – Gear, Prizes, Shoot Hoops and more!'

Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed as the Blazers beat the Pacers

Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed as the Blazers beat the Pacers

The Blazers returned to Portland to host the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.

With CJ McCollum out for at least the next week, Damian Lillard carried the Blazers down the stretch, finishing with 30 points and 15 assists while Jusuf Nurkic added 18 points and 11 rebounds to lift Portland over Indiana. 

Here’s a look at everything you might have missed as the Blazers beat the Pacers 106-98.

In the first game without CJ McCollum, it was a collective group who found themselves with extra minutes. Jake Layman got the start in the first half, while Rodney Hood took McCollum’s place in the second half.

Seth Curry and Zach Collins brought the energy plays with their additional minutes and Al Faroq-Aminu went 4-for-5 from distance, an overall 5-8 from the field, to score 16 points.

Jamie Hudson noted the Blazers team effort with McCollum recovering: Trail Blazers pass first test without CJ McCollum... Is there reason to rush him back?

Damian Lillard led the way for the Blazers, exploding for 30 points and 15 assists in just over 40 minutes of play. The All-Star guard went 9-14 from the field and nailed 4-of-9 from behind the arc.

Dwight Jaynes broke down Lillard’s monster night: Trail Blazers get the most (30 points, 15 assists) out of Damian Lillard's 40 minutes

Following the game, Jamie Hudson shared her initial reactions to the Blazers win over the Pacers: Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Indiana Pacers

Trail Blazers pass first test without CJ McCollum... Is there reason to rush him back?

Trail Blazers pass first test without CJ McCollum... Is there reason to rush him back?

Energy plays.

Collective play.

Staying ready to shoot.

These are all key components to the Trail Blazers 106-98 victory over the Pacers and Portland’s first game without starting shooting guard CJ McCollum.

Just as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts talked about in his pregame interview, it was a collective group who found themselves getting extra minutes with McCollum out.

Jake Layman got the starting nod in place of McCollum, but then Rodney Hood started the second half.  Hood, Layman and Seth Curry, are all expected to get more minutes with McCollum sidelined.

Also, as expected, Damian Lillard carried the load as he notched his ninth double-double of the season by the end of the third quarter. Lillard finished with 30 points and 15 assists, which is a new season-high in assists and just one shy form tying his career-high.

With 15 assists on the night it shows how the game plan is to play as a team in McCollum’s absence. Lillard discussed how it’s not about playing hero ball during this stretch without his running mate.

“I think having a guy that’s such a huge part of our team go down and not be out there, it’s not gonna be just me going out there trying to be the hero. It’s going to have to be done by committee,” Lillard told Blazers sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam immediately after the game.

“Against a very good team, we had a lot of guys step up. It was really encouraging and that’s how we’re going to have to play,” Lillard added.

ENERGY PLAYS AND CHASE DOWN BLOCKS

Zach Collins also saw the floor more, which proves Coach Stotts is going to fill McCollum’s minutes in a variety of ways. 

Collins made sure to make the most of the opportunity early and Coach Stotts was quick to recognize him postgame.

“Collins came in and made a lot of energy plays. I thought we scored more off of our energy than anything else,” Stotts said.

Even though this is just Collins’ second year in the league, he showed his wisdom in the locker room.

“[CJ] brings so much to our team... We just gotta come together and pick up the slack. Without him on the floor -- that’s a lot of buckets that we have to come up with and obviously, Dame has a lot on his shoulders and now that teams have to focus a lot more on him without CJ, we’ve got to help him out a little bit, just come together” Collins said.

Collins also noted that he always wants to “make energy plays that gets the crowd in to it,” and that’s exactly what he did midway through the second quarter with a chase down block on Tyreke Evans.

So, what goes through Collins’ mind when he’s going up for a chase down block like that?

“Move as fast as I can,” Collins said with a big smile.

“I need to get a little faster, but just try to get there as quickly as I can and try to time it right,” Collins said.

BE READY TO CATCH AND SHOOT

Al-Farouq Aminu picked up some of the scoring slack. He was a perfect 4-for-4 from three in the third quarter as he ignited the Blazers’ offense in the second half.

For Chief, it’s all about making sure he is ready to catch and release.

“Obviously Dame did a good job distributing, making sure everybody got involved… We just gotta continue to be ready to shoot,” Aminu said.

“I think what we did tonight was impressive, to be honest, I’m proud of everybody from top to bottom, the way we were able to step up without CJ and get a quality win,” Aminu added.

Aminu finished 4-for-5 from long distance and 5-for-8 from the field to score 16 points.

It’s all about that Blazer ball movement though.

“We just gotta play the same way and make sure we’re continuing to distribute the ball,” Aminu said.

NO NEED TO RUSH CJ BACK

Before Monday’s game both McCollum and Coach Stotts did not give any type of timetable on McCollum’s return.

Lillard knows one thing though—

He doesn’t want McCollum to hurry back before he’s ready.

Lillard has had this conversation with McCollum about taking his time to get the proper rehab.

“I don’t want [CJ] to have to rush it,” Lillard said. “And, when he does come back, I want him to be himself and be healthy... In my mind we’re going to finish the regular season without him... We’d rather have him healthy and strong for the playoffs.”

Trail Blazers get the most (30 points, 15 assists) out of Damian Lillard's 40 minutes

Trail Blazers get the most (30 points, 15 assists) out of Damian Lillard's 40 minutes

The Trail Blazers managed to hang on for a 106-98 home win over Indiana Monday night… but it wasn’t easy.

Neither, I’m sure, was it easy for Portland to play back-to-back games in New Orleans and San Antonio on Friday and Saturday, then play again Monday.

But that’s the NBA. ESPN needed a game and they must have badly needed it to put a Blazer-Pacer game on the national airwaves.

Damian Lillard delivered this win with a scintillating 30-point, 15-assist performance in 40:10 of very hard work.

Portland Coach Terry Stotts has made it clear he doesn’t want to have to play Lillard 40 minutes every night but he’s in a race for playoff seeding and with it, homecourt advantage.

Winning, obviously, takes precedence. And when the Pacers staged a late-game rally, Lillard was back on the for the finish.

“Dame is special,” Stotts said. “When we got up 21 in the fourth I was feeling comfortable. I think you guys know I’ve been trying to manage his minutes but through this stretch, with the race the way it is, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”

After missing their first nine three-point field goal attempts Saturday night in San Antonio, the Blazers opened the game by missing their first 10 against Indiana.

But then Lillard hit a couple of deep ones to break the ice at the end of the second quarter and Portland connected on 13 of its last 22 after the 0-10 start.

“I think we were getting quality looks,” Lillard said. “We were missing some good looks. That was the encouraging part of it. When it’s going that way, you know they’re going to fall eventually. You’re not just going to keep getting those kind of looks and keep missing them.

“That’s what happened. They just started to fall.”

Lillard did not seem too concerned with what could become a heavier workload with CJ McCollum out of action for several games.

“My rookie year I was playing 40 minutes all the time and that was hard, but I’m physically prepared for it. One thing is that you’re physically prepared for it but mentally, I know how to put myself in certain situations if I feel myself getting a little more tired, I know what actions we can run against what they’re doing so I’m not impacting the play but I’m involved in the play.

“And then on defense, I know when I hear a play call, I know how to position myself so that I know what I have to do. So mentally and physically, I am prepared.”

Lillard hit nine of his 16 shots and four of nine from long range.

After the shaky start, Portland made 46.8 percent of its shots and 13 of 32 from three. Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out late in the game. And the Blazers got a plus-13 off the bench from Zach Collins, who had a couple of spectacular blocks.

Al-Farouq Aminu chipped in a 4-5 night from the three-point line and ended with 16 points.

Portland plays host to Dallas Wednesday night.

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Indiana Pacers

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Indiana Pacers

The Trail Blazers returned home to face the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, tipping off a four-game homestand. 

Portland entered Monday’s game having won nine straight home games against the Pacers and looked to make it 10 in a row, the Pacers did not make it easy.

This was the Blazers first game without guard CJ McCollum, who will miss at least the next week with a popliteus strain in his left knee.

It was a hard fought game with the Blazers very active on defense. Portland also exploited the smaller Pacers defenders down low and that helped them pull away from the Pacers.

Portland defeated Indiana 106-98. The Blazers improve to 26-9 at home this season.

The Blazers have swept the season series against the Pacers for the second straight season.

Final Box Score: Trail Blazers 106, Pacers 98

Here are some quick thoughts from Portland’s first game of its current four-game homestand:

1.Multiple Blazers getting extra minutes as expected

Just as Blazers' head coach Terry Stotts talked about in his pregame interview, it was a collective group who got extra minutes with McCollum out.

Rodney Hood, Jake Layman, and Seth Curry all played more minutes. Layman got the starting nod, but played the least minutes out of three wings. Hood started the second half. Maybe Stotts will go with Hood on Wednesday to start against the Mavericks after Hood had more of an impact on the offensive end than Layman on Monday night.  

When you have a player who gets 34 to 35 minutes a night, there’s an adjustment period and that was clearly what was going on with the Blazers early. Portland started the game 0-for-10 from three.

Midway through the second quarter, people were most likely saying the Blazers need some #3J.

Damian Lillard got things going from deep at the end of the second quarter and it seemed to be the momentum Portland needed for the second half.

Stotts also talked pregame that there was a chance one of the rookies, Gray Trent Jr. or Anfernee Simons, could also see the floor, but that didn’t happen.

2. Blazer bigs take charge early

Jusuf Nurkic powered his way down low against Myles Turner. He had his way with the smaller defender on offense for most of the night.

If Nurkic hadn’t got into foul trouble early he probably could’ve gone off for 30 points, but after picking up his third foul in the second quarter that disrupted his minutes and his scoring.

Nurkic and Zach Collins saw the floor together for a little bit. The twin towers proved to be too much on defense. By the end of the third quarter, Indiana had just 28 points in the paint.

With Collins getting more minutes, it proves Coach Stotts is going to fill McCollum’s minutes in a variety of ways.  

3. Lillard a passing machine

Damian Lillard notched his ninth double-double of the season by the end of the third quarter.

Whether it was the pick and roll with Nurkic or kicking out to find his teammates in the corner for a three, Lillard was dropping dimes.

Portland's ball movement was on point for most of the game and that is going to be such a necessity with 21.3 points per game from McCollum not an option right now.

Lillard had 14 assists and 24 points after three quarters.  

NEXT UP: Portland continues its four-game homestand with game number two on the slate as the Blazers host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday at 7:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest. Our pregame coverage starts at 6:00pm.    
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

CJ McCollum has done his research and now it's all about rehab

CJ McCollum has done his research and now it's all about rehab

Portland guard CJ McCollum spoke with the media for the first time since being diagnosed with a popliteus strain in his left knee.

For McCollum, it’s about taking it one day at time.

“Just take it day-by-day, rehab and do what they tell me to do, try to do a little bit more each day, working with the range of motion, strengthen some of the muscles around it, and then try and get some of the swelling and stuff like that down a little and go from there,” McCollum said.

It has been three days since McCollum suffered the injury after driving to the basket and landing awkwardly, exhibiting immediate pain. McCollum left the game with 7:08 in the third quarter of Saturday night's loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Just as several Trail Blazers looked up "a popliteus strain" on Sunday, McCollum has done his research as well. He googled “popliteus“ and found that Kevin Garnett had a similar injury, but as McCollum put it “everybody’s body is different.” Garnett missed 13 games and a total of 21 days with the similar injury. However, Garnett suffered the injury at the age of 33, whereas McCollum is 27 years old, as McCollum said age can clearly play a factor.

“I think just based on the research that’s done, there’s not a lot of injuries like this that have happened, so the timeline is different just depending on the age, you know, how well your body heals, what you’ve done before that and where you’re at, but hopefully I can be back soon rather than later,” McCollum said.

For those who still have not googled the muscle -- The popliteus tendon is a small muscle, which is located at the back of your knee. It is important in unlocking the knee from a fully straightened position and is important for stability around the knee and controlling the shearing forces around the knee. (PhysioWorks)

McCollum doesn’t know if he will be return during the regular season, saying his goal is to come back when he is healthy.

As for the pain right now, it is not constant.

“The pain comes and goes depending on what you’re doing… Certain movements, it’s painful , it’s hard to explain, but it’s just an uncomfortable feeling – like something is pulling the back of your leg,” McCollum said.   

 

McCollum posted to his social media after his diagnosis on Sunday.

There is also concern of coming back too early. McCollum mentioned you never want to rush back.  

“Obviously you want to get back to the court as fast as possible, but one-- you don’t want to be a liability, you don’t’ want to hurt the team, two-- you don’t want to hurt yourself, you don’t want to set yourself back, try to come back to early and hurt something worse… The muscle is more about a time thing,” McCollum said.  

“The muscle is gonna heal at its own rate… I just have to be careful with what I’m doing right now in the first three to five days and then I’ll kind of opening things up as we progress to the seven to 10 day period,” McCollum added.

McCollum said it’s all about working on his “getting his acceleration and deceleration back with the bending of his knee.

He is also trying to rest the knee and changing up his diet in order to strengthening his muscles. McCollum has added more fish oil and a high protein diet.

As for McCollum’s rehab, it includes, “physical therapy in terms of lifting… massage therapy… Did some pool workouts just… working on some different movements that the popliteus affects,” McCollum said.

Hear the entire CJ McCollum interview right here: