It takes a lot to get under CJ McCollum’s skin.
But, with frustrations piling up over the last two games, McCollum found his breaking point Saturday night.
And Kings big man Alex Len was his target.
Just under four minutes into the third quarter of the Trail Blazers 123-111 loss to the Kings, McCollum put up his dukes.
Portland was down by 20.
It was obvious the Trail Blazers shooting guard did not like the way Kings big man Alex Len had set a moving screen.
The two quickly got into a shoving match. It looked as if punches were going to be thrown.
“The game wasn’t going well for us,” McCollum explained his point of view of the scuffle. “I felt like he could’ve moved, he didn’t have to stand there and keep trying to screen me."
To say it's been a trying season for the Blazers would be an understatement. Portland is currently looking at a 28-37 overall record, and now with two straight losses, first to the Suns, and now to the Kings on back to back nights, the Blazers have put even more space in between them and the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
“We’re in the danger zone. We need every game. We felt that we’d come away with a win tonight,” McCollum said.
It was as if McCollum could feel the ‘danger zone’ approaching while Len was approaching his personal space for longer than was necessary.
The officials were quick to get in the middle of McCollum and Len.
And good thing.
Following the official review, of the ‘hostile act’ the refereeing crew assessed that no punch was attempted, even though some may say, Len looked to have his right fist ready to go.
But, with no attempted punch, meant the two received offsetting technicals, while Len was also charged with an offensive foul.
The official NBA rules on assessing whether or not a player is to be ejected reads as follows --
A player, coach, trainer, or other team bench person must be ejected for:
A punching foul
A fighting foul
Technical foul for an attempted punch or swing with no contact or a thrown elbow toward an opponent above shoulder level with no contact
But, don’t think throwing a punch wasn’t crossing McCollum’s mind.
He also wasn’t surprised that he was only hit with a tech, because he would have made sure to earn an ejection.
I wasn’t heading to the locker room. They didn’t even let me swing. At least let me swing first, if you’re going to throw me out. Let me work on my stuff. You know, I work all summer on my hands, at least let me use them. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum said postgame
If it wasn’t for referee Brett Nansel, it sounds like Len would’ve been welcomed with a fist from McCollum.
“If they didn’t grab me, you all would’ve been able to see something,” McCollum said with a smile.
McCollum's backcourt teammate Damian Lillard backed him both in the moment of the scuffle and after the game.
“[Len] was setting a moving screen,” Lillard said postgame. “CJ was kind of bumping him, trying to fight through it, then they called an offensive foul because he kind of shoved him on the last screen and a frustrating time of the game, CJ shoved him back, he shoved CJ and at that point, got to get ready to defend yourself, and I thought that was what he did.”
That technical foul was number five for McCollum this season and Len’s third of the year.
The Trail Blazers season has had its boiling points that's for sure. Lillard has tailed six technicals on the season, while Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has five.
“Everything is probably a good start” is what McCollum believes the Blazers should change between now and Tuesday night when the Phoenix Suns come to town.
Now with seventeen games remaining in the regular season, will Portland be able to turn frustration into extra motivation while finding some urgency or could we see more technical fouls on the horizon?