CJ McCollum, team culture carry Trail Blazers to Western Conference finals

CJ McCollum, team culture carry Trail Blazers to Western Conference finals

DENVER – This amazing, incredible Sunday afternoon triumph – Trail Blazer owner Jody Allen called it “gritty” in her passionate speech to the Trail Blazers in their locker room – that vaulted Portland into the Western Conference finals against Golden State was a long time coming.

And it had so much to do with the team’s culture, its pride and its unwillingness to quit. And oh yes, CJ McCollum was other-worldly. And staff, front office, coaches – everyone there in the team’s family – was celebrating hard in the locker room and its vicinity when it ended.

“It speaks to the character of our organization and what we’ve become,” said Damian Lillard, after his team rallied from a 17-point second-quarter deficit to beat the Nuggets 100-96. “Obviously, we had the roster turnover four years ago and everybody was quick to shoot us down, count us out.

“And at that point, we didn’t know for sure what direction we were going to go in. But we definitely leaned on the culture that we wanted to create – doing things the right way, working hard, being about each other, not being about one guy or two guys. I think we really built that up from the jump. And to have that, it takes everybody – not just the players. You’ve got to have the coaches, the training staff, the front office, the security, everybody who is with us there every day. The PR staff – everybody we see every day.

“Everybody is invested in what we created,. I think when we come out on top in game like this, a tough series like this, you see it in everybody’s celebration.

“It’s exciting because we all play a part in it. You don’t just create this type of thing with just the players. It takes everybody to be all in. And that’s what it was tonight.”

Lillard was only 3-17 from the field but had 10 rebounds and eight assists to go with 13 points. McCollum carried the heavy scoring burden with 37 points on 17=29 shooting and he added nine rebounds.

But as Lillard said, even when Rodney Hood was lost for the game with a hyper-extended knee, the team got major contributions from Zach Collins, Enes Kanter, Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard.

Leonard, who arrived in Portland the same season as Lillard, was visibly emotional in the locker room.

“Emotional and happy,” he said. “This is surreal, man. This is seven years in the making. I was just talking to Dame. We were horrible our rookie year, then we were a 50-win playoff team two years in a row, then we decided to blow it up. We continued to bring in guys who wanted to work, who were good people, who were true professionals, who understood what we wanted.

“Then we go to the second round, then we get swept by the Warriors, then we get swept by New Orleans. All with the same team – almost the same people. Yet, we came out on the other end of it that much better. And that’s the most amazing thing about this team.

“We’ve added some guys but this has been an incredible run. But we’re not done yet. I’ve said this, I had a quote the other night, people from the outside looking in don’t know about this locker room and what we’ve been through.

“Every single guy is ready to play at any given moment. Every single guy wants the next guy to do well. And this has been a special run and this is a special team. There’s just been a lot of things that have happened – us getting swept, Mr. Allen’s passing, Nurk’s injury, I can go on down the line. There’s just been things that you would have thought would have knocked us out, that we would have thrown in the towel.

“But we haven’t. I would tell you, I’m a big communicator on the bench,. And I’ve never been around a group of guys that believes so much. And I’m a big believer, also.

“Even when we were down 17, I wasn’t worried because this is just a special team and guys that know how to get it done. It’s unbelievable.

“Maybe in the morning I will wake up and understand what happened but you should have seen us – staff, front office, coaches, players, everybody from top to bottom so happy for each other. This is a truly special team and special organization.

“People care and people work together. (Jody Allen) spoke really well. She was passionate, told us how immensely proud she is of us, the way we played with heart and determination and grit, that she’s proud to be a part of it.

“I thought that was pretty special considering everything that’s happened.”

Bert Kolde has been a part of the organization since his friend, Paul Allen, bought the team in 1988. Allen lost his battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in October and his sister, Jody, took over at the helm of the team.

“It’s been a legendary playoff run,” Kolde said after leaving the locker room celebration. “A magic carpet ride. And I feel that Paul’s spirit is watching over us. It’s special. It feels really special.”

Portland caught up with the Nuggets at the end of the third quarter and took a brief one-point lead but Denver led by a point heading into the final quarter, when the winners outscored the Nuggets 29-24.

McCollum had a chase-down block of a breakaway layup after Seth Curry went low to force the shot up high and that was a big play in the period.

“He put it right there for me and I just went and got it, ‘Bron-style,’” McCollum said. “Shout-out to my guy Bron (LeBron James). It was a mini-version of LeBron’s block on Iggy a few years ago. It’s something we will remember forever. I might have to get a picture of that one.”

Turner iced the game with two clutch foul shots with eight seconds on the clock.

“Pressure can cut pipes or make diamonds,” Turner said later. “So we never thought we were going to lose or anything like that.”

Ahead are the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, in a series that beings Tuesday in Oakland. But I doubt the Trail Blazers will be intimidated.

“Jody told the team, it’s been a great season – SO FAR,” Kolde said with a smile.

Her late brother couldn’t have said it any better.

NBC Sports Mock Draft 6.0, will the Trail Blazers keep their pick?

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NBC Sports Mock Draft 6.0, will the Trail Blazers keep their pick?

We are less than a week away from the 2019 NBA Draft!  Now that pre-draft workouts are wrapping up all around the league, the countdown to draft day is on.  With the Pelicans acquiring the Lakers pick (for now?), things are getting very interesting in the middle of the lottery. 

Let's take a look at how we see the NBA Draft going down and who the Trail Blazers might pick at No. 25.  This upcoming field of players has the potential to impact the balance of power in the NBA for many years to come…

No. 1 [Pelicans] -- Zion Williamson, Forward, Duke

Minutes after New Orleans won the draft lottery in May, all the buzz was about the addition of Williamson possibly swaying Anthony Davis to stay in the Big Easy. As it turns out, Davis is now in Hollywood and the Pelicans added a few solid pieces to go along with their prized top pick (not to mention a haul of future draft picks).  Williamson has been talked about for months as the best prospect in this draft class. He’s a 6-7 forward weighing in at 284 lbs who was an extremely entertaining player to watch while his athleticism was on full display while at Duke. Averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a first-year player, Williamson led the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight. Now with the Pelicans, he'll be tasked with leading a core of young players including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart on a playoff hunt in the coming years.

No. 2 [Grizzlies] -- Ja Morant, Point, Murray State

When the first reports broke about Morant undergoing “a minor arthroscopic procedure" on his right knee, the rumors started swirling that Memphis was no longer interested in Morant’s services. However, with Morant’s rehab timeline revealing he should be ready to go in early July, it looks like the Grizzlies will still take him No. 2 overall. Adding fuel to the fire, recent rumors have longtime Grizzly point guard Mike Conley possibly on the trading block, which would make it all the more likely that Morant is the Grizzlies' man.  Morant would be add some flare to the grit-and-grind style in Memphis.  After all, Morant put on a show at Murray State. The 6-3 sophomore excels at getting to the rim. He also easily breaks down defenders with his smooth handles. He is a guard who can get his teammates involved as well.

No. 3 [Knicks] -- RJ Barrett, Forward, Duke

Barrett is a high-energy player, and was Duke’s most consistent scorer. There’s no doubt he will be a high pick on Draft Night, though Barrett will need to work on his ball handling to become more efficient in the half court. The 19-year-old, whose birthday was June 14th, has met with both the Knicks and the Grizzlies. Stay tuned for some possible draft night drama however, if the Knicks don't select Barrett, and he falls into a reunion with his Blue Devil teammate Zion Williamson at the Pelicans 4th overall pick.  FUN FACT: Barrett’s Godfather is former NBA star Steve Nash.

No. 4 [Pelicans from Lakers] -- De’Andre Hunter, Forward, Virginia

We'll start with a disclaimer:  It's very possible, even likely, that the Pelicans trade this freshly-acquired pick.  That being said, if they do make the selection, signs point to De'Andre Hunter.  Hunter is a solid on-ball defender, who has great size and can knock down big shots, as seen in the NCAA Title game with his game tying three-pointer with 12.9 seconds left in regulation. The NABC Defensive Player of the Year, Hunter was matched up on Jarrett Culver all night in a battle of future pros. Hunter held Culver to 5-of-22 from the field and is now a National Champion.  Hunter's shotmaking ability would be a nice compliment to the playmaking ability of the Pelicans' top pick Zion Williamson.

No. 5 [Cavaliers] -- Jarrett Culver, Guard, Texas Tech

Culver has been targeted as a high lottery pick since Texas Tech advanced to the NCAA Championship game. The 6-5 junior picked up his scoring over the last month of the college season, and showed off his versatile offensive game during this past March Madness. Culver has also proven he is an above-average perimeter defender. His jumpshot is still a work in progress, though he would have lots of time to work on that with the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers.

No. 6 [Suns] -- Darius Garland, Point Guard, Vanderbilt

Crafty, quick, elite ball handler, with an impressive pull-up off the dribble – these skills all describe Garland. The Vanderbilt Freshman suffered a knee injury back in November that caused him to miss a big chunk of the college basketball season, but scouts have seen enough of his offense to take a chance on him. Garland needs work on the other end of the ball though.

No. 7 [Bulls] -- Coby White, Point Guard, North Carolina

White has proven he has the ability to create shots off the dribble effectively and efficiently. He also has nice size to be able to defend NBA shooting guards. Chicago lacks true star-power at the guard position (and really on the entire roster, to be honest) so White could break into the rotation quickly with the Bulls.

No. 8 [Hawks] -- Cam Reddish, Forward, Duke

Another Duke star, Reddish is a 6-9 freshman and is seen as having big potential. He’s a versatile small forward and has a quick release. Reddish didn’t quite live up to the hype at Duke, but there are still several NBA teams out there that are excited about his potential. Reddish would give the Hawks another big man to put around sophomore guard Trae Young.

No. 9 [Wizards] -- Jaxson Hayes, Forward, Texas

Hayes is a valuable rim protector and a threat to score the ball as well. He averaged 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes while shooting an efficient 72.8 percent from the field. Hayes has all the right physical tools needed for the next level. He has been compared to Nets forward Jarrett Allen.

No. 10 [Hawks from Mavericks] -- Brandon Clarke, Power Forward/Center, Gonzaga

Clarke is on the older end of the spectrum at 22-years-old. The 6-8 big man has been surging up the draft boards after his impressive and gutty performance in the Big Dance. He caught a lot of attention when he scored 36 points in Gonzaga’s 83-71 win over No. 9 seed Baylor in the second round. Clarke was a consistent scorer most of the season, shooting nearly 70% from the field. But, it’s his rim protection and his overall defense that has really turned heads. Clarke averaged 1.2 steals and 3.2 blocks per game this season.

WHAT ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS?

No. 25 [Blazers] -- Admiral Schofield, Small Forward, Tennessee

First and foremost, you have to love a guy named Admiral.  And even better, his brother's name is General.  His family's navy roots aside, Schofield is a rare four-year player in the first round, having improved his stats each season at Tennessee.  The Volunteers had a great season and Schofield showed himself to be a steady outside shooter and a fiery competitor.  Portland worked him out recently and if they don't trade this pick, they may decide to bring him aboard.

 

Download the MyTeams app today for the FULL 2019 First Round Mock Draft  

Throwback to 2012 NBA Draft -- License to Lillard, Episode 1: The Beginning

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Throwback to 2012 NBA Draft -- License to Lillard, Episode 1: The Beginning

Since it’s NBA Draft week, we thought we’d throw it back to when the draft process all began for Trail Blazers' All-Star point guard Damian Lillard.

Lucky for Trail Blazers fans, Nate Jones of Goodwin Sports Management put together a four-part series titled “License to Lillard,” where fans could watch the pre-draft process and get to know the Weber State point guard.

“I’m just dreaming. Pursuing my dream. Follow me on my journey to the NBA,” Lillard said in episode one.

Going to a smaller school at Weber State helped motivate Lillard to prove what he can do.

“I wasn’t recruited by the bigger schools, it just automatically put a chip on my shoulder,” Lillard said.

Portland fans might notice the Oakland native sporting his hometown team, wearing Golden State Warriors basketball shorts while working out. 

Lillard told the story of when he was growing up, he was always working on his game and even though he didn’t have a hoop in his backyard, he did have a basket on a tree at his grandmother’s house that he used often at a young age.

Follow Lillard’s journey training hard, getting stronger, and becoming more explosive before the Trail Blazers took a chance on him in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Also, find out how Lillard overcame breaking his right foot during his junior season (2010-11). Lillard had played in just nine games for the Wildcats before suffering the foot injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the season. He would go on to receive a medical redshirt season. This was his first major injury.

“It was kind of hard on me… I think that helped me get as mentally tough as anyone… Right now I think I can do anything,” Lillard said.

WATCH FULL EPISODE HERE --

License to Lillard, Episode 1: The Beginning

Get to know (and get ready to salute) the Admiral, Admiral Schofield

Get to know (and get ready to salute) the Admiral, Admiral Schofield

According to the dictionary, “Admiral” has two definitions:

- A commander of a fleet or naval squadron, or a naval officer of very high rank.

- A butterfly that has dark wings with bold colorful markings.

Both these definitions are relative when describing Admiral Schofield. 

Imagine a 6’6” 241 pound guard/small forward who has the body of a small truck that’s paired with a silky smooth jump shot. A threat everywhere on the court, literally, everywhere. Baseline to baseline, sideline to sideline. The ability to hit a corner three on one end, block your shot on the other, and then lead a fast break that turns into a ferocious dunk. He’s the guy you want on your team and hate him if he’s not. 

This is Admiral Schofield.

The Tennessee legend, who played all four years in that signature orange color, was a leader since stepping onto the Knoxville campus. In his first season (2015-16), the Vols hired new coach Rick Barnes and finished 15-19 that year, 12th in the SEC conference. Schofield averaged 7.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in just 18.7 minutes per game. The next year, Tennessee improved but not by much, finishing 9th in the SEC with a 16-16 record. By the time Schofield was a junior, his numbers improved all over the court and the Vols found themselves on top of the SEC finishing first in the conference with a 26-9 overall record and going as far as the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Schofield went through the NBA Draft evaluation process after his junior year but ultimately stayed with the Vols for one more season. And boy did he have an impact. Tennessee flirting with the No. 1 overall ranking in NCAA division I men’s basketball all last season, had a deep NCAA Tournament run, and Schofield made himself into quite the NBA prospect: 

- Averaged 16.5 points and shot 42% from three-point range; 

- A finalist for the 2019 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award; 

- 2019 Naismith Trophy Men’s Player of the Year Award Midseason Team;

- A No. 1 Top -10 play on SportsCenter

- 2019 All-SEC First Team (Coaches)

(Just to name a few…)

He was the admiral in Tennessee. 

His style of play is that of “a butterfly with dark wings and bold beautiful markings.” A multi-faceted type of game: not afraid to have the ball in his hands, can overpower you in the paint, but also pull up with a smooth free throw line jumper. But what sets him apart from the rest of the field every time he steps onto the court is his ability to shoot beyond the arc. He is the type of person, not just player, willing to do it all. He has the tenacious mentality to grab an offensive rebound and go right up with it. The in-your-face dark wings with the bold, fearless jump shot butterfly that he is.

This is Admiral Schofield. A guy who can do everything and the little things:

Should the Blazers salute the admiral if he is still on the board at No. 25 on this Thursday’s 2019 NBA Draft? Absolutely. 

 

Get to Know: Talen Horton-Tucker from Iowa State

Get to Know: Talen Horton-Tucker from Iowa State

The Trail Blazers hosted their final round of pre-draft workouts today at the practice facility in Tualatin. Horton-Tucker is a 6’4’’ Guard/Forward from Iowa State. He was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and a Big 12 All-Freshman team selection for the 2018-2019 season. He was second among Big 12 freshmen in scoring at 11.8 ppg.

Horton-Tucker’s strengths include a well-balanced combination of power and skill as he is built like a power forward but has skills like a guard but is still working to develop his three point range. Also a benefit, Horton-Tucker has the build and athleticism to guard multiple positions.

Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

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NBC Sports Northwest

Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

Welcome to The Scoop Journal, where every week I empty my notebook of wide ranging Trail Blazer thoughts, observations, and randomness. I hope you enjoy this light-hearted weekly blog...

June 14, 2019

Dear Scoop Journal,

This is my first journal entry since the Trail Blazers season ended and it seems fitting to write down my random Trail Blazers/NBA thoughts today since the season came to an end last night with the Toronto Raptors taking home the 2019 NBA Championship.

Now that I’ve had a night to sleep on it, with all the injuries for the Warriors, and the celebrations in Toronto, here are my latest Blazers and NBA thoughts:

*Everyone I talk to today, I want to ask them this question: How bad did you wish you were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night in Toronto? (Toronto knows how to celebrate a championship!)

*First off, Congrats to Toronto and the Raptors fans on earning their first NBA Championship! I know I’m not alone in thinking Blazers fans are happy for their fellow northern neighbors.

*It’s so hard not to think about what it would be like here in Portland for the Blazers to win a title in the modern NBA era. Rip City will go absolutely crazy when the next championship happens here. This is something I think about often. Obviously, I can’t wait for that day!   

*There were so emotions for Golden State fans on Thursday night. It was the last game played at Oracle Arena, the Warriors had just lost Kevin Durant to a ruptured Achilles a couple days before Game 6, and then Klay Thompson goes out with what we all later learned was a torn ACL.

*Injuries are the worst part of the game. You hate to see players go down with these horrific injuries.  

*And not to mention, Thompson and Durant will both become free agents this offseason. This summer is going to be very interesting and next season could now be wide open.  

*I saw a Blazer fan tweet this out on Thursday night and I think this is how every non-Warrior fan was feeling:

*For now, NBA fans wish for a speedy recovery to all the players who went down with major injuries this season.

*Let’s now shift our focus to the NBA Draft. Thursday evening can’t come soon enough. Who will the Blazers pick at No. 25? Or will Portland trade the pick in a package deal? We’re about to find out!

Trail Blazers react to the World Champion Toronto Raptors

Trail Blazers react to the World Champion Toronto Raptors

The 2018-2019 NBA season has come to and end. The Toronto Raptors have dethroned the dynasty that is the Golden State Warriors defeated the Dubs in six games. 

This is the first NBA Championship for the Raptors and "Jurassic Park". 

Several players of the Portland Trail Blazers took to social media following the game to congradulate the World Champs:

The end of this NBA season can only mean that the NBA Draft and the NBA Summer League are just weeks away.

We are about to head into the crazy that is the NBA offseason with so many major players up in free agency. To the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard. For the Warriors, injuries to All-Stars Kevin Durant and now Klay Thompson (ACL tear in game six) will be something to watch next season and what Golden State will do.

CJ McCollum recognized Thompson's heart, coming back into the game and shooting two free throws on a torn ACL.

Outsiders: Will the Blazers actually use the No.25 pick?

Outsiders: Will the Blazers actually use the No.25 pick?

The Blazers have the 25th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and have already held three pre-draft workouts, but will they actually end up using the pick?

So far the players they have brought in point to no, but workouts don't always tell the story.

Remember the Blazers drafted Zach Collins without ever bringing him in for a workout.

So what will the Blazers do on June 20th? Our Blazers Outsiders discuss in the video above.

Trail Blazers could make a move, but don't expect Anthony Davis

Trail Blazers could make a move, but don't expect Anthony Davis

Now that the season is over and it looks as if the Golden State Warriors are going to have to make a miracle move not to look like a mediocre team next season, the talk turns to the Western Conference and the most basic of questions:

Who’s next?

As the runner-up to Golden State in the playoffs this last season, the Trail Blazers would certainly be a logical choice. And that means there’s pressure on Portland to make the Big Move to push it over the top – something that might duplicate what the Raptors did when they acquired Kawhi Leonard.

And the trade that is being tossed around the most, of course, is for New Orleans’ Anthony Davis. And I would advise those wishing for the Trail Blazers to pull that one off to slow down and be a little more realistic.

The Blazers would probably be willing to go all-in on Davis but they just don’t have the chips to tempt the Pelicans. Or, more correctly, other teams have more to offer.

And let me say first, if you think the Trail Blazer brass hasn’t already thought of this and hasn’t already engaged in some discussions with New Orleans, you’re probably off base. I would assume by now a whole lot of teams have not only knocked on David Griffin’s door, but have been rebuffed.

There’s a reason the Lakers continue to be the most-talked-about destination for Davis. No, not LeBron -- although that's certainly a factor in Davis wanting to be there. They have the most to offer. Los Angeles could send the Pels two previous No. 2 picks in the draft along with the current No. 4 pick – as well as Kyle Kuzma. The Blazers would be offering high-salaried players who could provide cap room in one more year but I would also assume a team welcoming Zion Williamson doesn't want to think about cap space NEXT year.

It wants talent now.

So if Davis doesn’t land in Portland it doesn’t mean the team didn’t give it a shot. Those guys in the front office know exactly what’s out there for them in the West and are more excited about that prospect than you are.

And I do think the Trail Blazers will pull something off – and it will probably prove to be better than you thought it was going to be. That’s the way a lot of Neil Olshey’s moves have turned out over the last several seasons.

Who could they get? I have no idea. But I certainly didn’t know Jusuf Nurkic and a pick could be had for Mason Plumlee – and I had no idea Nurk would prove to be the player he’s become. I also didn’t expect Rodney Hood and Enes Kantor to show up here for the stretch run last season.

Olshey’s plan all along has been to prepare this franchise for the time when the Warriors drop off. The Warriors didn’t just drop off, though, they fell down in a heap due to injuries.

But the Blazers are closer to a Western Conference title now than they’ve been in a long time. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are in their prime and Jusuf Nurkic – when they get him healthy – is a force at both ends of the court.

Portland could still use more three-point shooting and a rim protector until Nurkic heals and to back him up after that.

You can play with one of those online digital trade machines all you want, but I’m not sure you really know which players to plug into it.

So my best advice would be to be patient and see what happens.

CJ McCollum is finally the star that Blazers fans have wanted him to be

CJ McCollum is finally the star that Blazers fans have wanted him to be

The 2018-19 NBA season started out rocky for CJ McCollum. Terry Stotts wanted him to be handcuffed with Damian Lillard in the starting unit to start the year, and that led to some growing pains for McCollum. Where before he had free reign, the inclusion of Lillard in more of his minutes required McCollum to be more ingenious and efficient.

Things didn't start out that great for McCollum. He struggled to shoot the ball, particularly in November and into December. It was clear that he was trying to play within the confines of someone else's game, and McCollum didn't angle to his own strengths.

That changed, particularly after the All-Star break, when McCollum's offensive rating shot up to 120. He was more useful in the passing game, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, it was clear the Blazers could rely on McCollum yet again.

He was huge in the first round, particularly in Game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. McCollum scored 33 points while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range. He was a +25 in Game 4 of that series, and in Game 3 against the Nuggets in the next round, he scored 41 points en route to a 2-1 Blazers series lead.

McCollum’s penultimate performance came in Game 7 when he hit a clutch jumper in with  2 seconds to go against the Denver Nuggets. His shot sealed the win vs. Denver, and pushed Portland to the Western Conference Finals.

So how should we feel about McCollum? Adaptation and fearlessness are the two things that defined McCollum’s season. He could have very well folded under the pressure of a new role earlier in the season. The same could be said about how he could have given up in tougher games in the playoffs when Lillard was struggling and he had to take over. But instead, McCollum rose to the challenge and became something more. In doing so, he earned the praise we lumped onto him after he signed his massive new contract in 2016.

National talking heads like to put on a show about the Blazers. They watch some highlights, check out some stats, and make a big show about sending some respect out west to the Blazers for both Lillard and McCollum. But the amount of minutes that folks on the East coast actually watch this team is minimal. Believe me, I lived there, and if you talked about staying up late to watch West Coast basketball people would look at you as if you were crazy. 

Yes, both of Portland stars deserve this praise. But the lack of understanding about what kind of players they are, and the kind of lip service that's been paid to them has created a gap between perception and reality.

In particular, because he's the second banana, it seems sparse what many on the other side of the Rockies could tell you about McCollum — other than the fact that he's a scorer. And to be honest, up until this season, it wasn't clear that there was another level to McCollum game other than that fact. The national understanding of McCollum game was accurate, whether it was obtained honestly or not.

But this season has changed how we should think about CJ McCollum. His adaptability — to operate differently after five seasons within the geometric dance of an NBA offense — is admirable. It was a test of character that McCollum passed, and it may have also been the thing that gave McCollum the chutzpah to handle adversity in the playoffs the way he did this season. 

Before 2018-19, CJ McCollum was “smooth” “crafty” and “shifty”; a second-tier scorer on a second-tier team, standing in the shadows cast by a light shining brighter than himself in Damian Lillard. Now? McCollum is finally the star that so many Portland Trail Blazers fans have ascribed him to be.