Portland Trail Blazers: When to Activate CJ McCollum

Mar 16, 2012; Greensboro, NC, USA; Lehigh Mountain Hawks forward John Adams (4) and guards C.J. McCollum (3) and B.J. Bailey (32) react in the second half. The Mountain Hawks defeated the Blue Devils 75-70 in the second round of the 2012 NCAA men

 

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.

 

Topics: Cj Mccollum, CJ McCollum Injury, Cj Mccollum Return, Portland Trail Blazers, Trail Blazers Schedule

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  • Brandon Goldner

    I say wait. Give him a few weeks of 5v5. There’s no rush. It’s better that he be as acclimated as possible before any possible mistakes have win/loss implications.

  • blazerfan808

    d mac, even if healthy, do you think mccollum would have cracked the 9-man rotation from the get-go? he’s very talented, but as we saw during the summer league very green. im mostly cautious about toying with his confidence. since we are winning, i would wait.

    any report on his physical condition? he carries his weight well, but he is not a svelt kid. i think its important we set him up for success without putting him in a do or die situation. i might even wait for more garbage min before debuting him.

    • David MacKay

      Sorry I missed your question earlier. Yes, McCollum would have been in rotation right away behind Matthews. I think Stotts would have either bumped up to a 10-man roto, or played him alternating games in Williams’ role until he could justify heavier minutes. The only way to fade the green is to play. The Trail Blazers wanted him badly enough, I don’t believe they’d have swept him and his scoring ability aside if he were healthy from the get-go.

      As for conditioning, he’d reportedly lost 6 lbs in early November and has been hitting the weight room pretty hard since. He probably won’t play at his college speed right away, but don’t be surprised if he’s gained a step since exhibition.

      I think we’ll see McCollum around the 11th. I’d prefer to keep him out for out at least another week, but I don’t want to juxtapose him with Oladipo on the 8th and invite critical comparison before he is ready.

  • Draftdog

    I saw McCollum in the summer league and if he brings that kind of play to the Blazers he will definitely be a chemistry killer. I have to say, I was not high on him before the draft and was very disappointed in his selection. I had Michael Carter-Williams and Steve Adams both ahead of him and was undecided about three others. However, not taking MCW or Adams I would rather have had the Blazers trade up or down (preferably down) in the draft.

    • David MacKay

      I was pretty high on Jamaal Franklin in the second, at the time. My exit strategy if all the good players were gone by our turn was to trade a small package to Houston for the 34th pick and Patrick Beverly, then draft Franklin. We’ll see how McCollum does though. He’s got tremendous potential, but I still don’t see him as a great fit for this team. Time will tell.

  • nO_Name

    he will be better than wes for sure