CJ McCollum was cleared to practice fully on Friday and is now able to take part in 5-on-5 scrimmages with the Portland Trail Blazers. He was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the NBA Draft on June 27th, but has been recovering from a broken foot since October 5th. As such, he has yet to play for Portland at all this season. Normally, a clean bill of health means an imminent return, but the 23-5 Trail Blazers’ unexpected level of early success could further delay McCollum’s activation.
In theory, CJ McCollum could play right away. However; it is more likely that head coach Terry Stotts will want him to practice with the team as much as possible first, so that his introduction into the lineup doesn’t throw off Portland’s groove. The Trail Blazers’ next couple games are doozies (Clippers on the 26th, Heat on the 28th) and it would be smart to keep McCollum benched so team dynamic remains unaltered against stiff competition.
Those games are Portland’s last two at home in 2013. If CJ McCollum remains sidelined through them, we likely won’t see him on the court until January, as the Trail Blazers will look to debut their lottery prize at home. Following the Miami game, Portland’s next two games are in New Orleans and Oklahoma City. Both will be incredibly challenging and far from the easy entry CJ McCollum needs. After all, having broken his foot once before, he hasn’t played competitive basketball since January 5th back at LeHigh.
The following games mark his most likely return dates:
- January 2nd vs. Charlotte Bobcats
- January 4th vs. Philadelphia 76ers
- January 8th vs. Orlando Magic
- January 11th vs. Boston Celtics
- January 15th vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Those are all home games, with only a quick flight to Sacramento on January 7th to break up their consecutive nature. If the Trail Blazers decide that they are ready and so is CJ McCollum, they will bring him back as soon as possible. In this case, circle January 2nd on your calendar. If they can’t check both of those boxes by then, the smart money is on January 11th. McCollum would have four days to rest in between the Celtics game and the Cavaliers game, both of which will be broadcast locally on KGW.
Terry Stotts and the Portland Trail Blazers have remained quiet on a timeline for CJ McCollum’s return to allow themselves flexibility. At this point, it’s not so much a matter of when they are confident in the strength of McCollum’s foot, but rather when they are confident in the strength of his cohesion with the rest of the team. No matter how good, it’s difficult to add elements to a winning formula without messing up the chemistry. In order to minimize casualties to their record, the Trail Blazers should activate McCollum during a stretch of games where they are already the heavy favorites to win.