CJ McCollum prides himself on having a tight-knit relationship with the Portland Trail Blazers players, staff and front office.
But despite the fact McCollum talks to Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey daily, the moves Portland executed during the offseason were something the eight-year veteran didn’t see coming, including the acquisition of Robert Covington from the Houston Rockets.
“[I was] surprised just like everybody else. I was like ‘we signed him? That’s cool,’” McCollum said on Complex’s “Load Management,” podcast. “I talk to our GM almost every day, but I just give advice on players that I like. I don’t tell them what to do. That’s not my job… I’ll even circle players that I like on the free agency list, but from there, it’s up to you. You do your thing. I’m not the guy that goes in and says I have to have this guy. No, these are the guys I like, these are the guys I think would be good for us.”
A flurry of moves continued for Portland after free agency opened on Friday. The Trail Blazers also brought back reserve center Enes Kanter in a three-team deal with the Grizzlies and Celtics. The Turkish big man played a huge role in the Trail Blazers run to the Western Conference Finals during the 2018-19 season.
“The Enes Kanter one, I wasn’t expecting that,” McCollum said. “I knew that there was a chance we needed a backup center, especially if Whiteside wasn’t just signed, so I knew there was a list of guys we were going to target, but I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get him...
The Trail Blazers also moved to add a player with elite athleticism and versatility in Derrick Jones Jr, who most recently played with Miami, averaging 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 23.3 minutes in 59 games for the Heat.
Re-signing Carmelo Anthony to a one-year deal was also crucial for a team who looks to make a championship run next season.
“Jones, that was surprising,” McCollum said. “I know we wanted to be more athletic, wanted a defensive guy, I think he kind of checks those boxes and I thought Melo was going to re-sign. I talk to him pretty often, but I just wasn’t sure.”
With new weapons, defensive assets, and experienced veterans returning to full health, McCollum is excited to see just how much potential this Blazers squad could have when the season tips off on Dec. 22.
“I’m looking forward to it,” McCollum said. “We just got to stay healthy."