Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum recently penned a column full of advice geared toward incoming rookies. McCollum, who earned a journalism degree during his four years at LeHigh University, wanted to share his experiences with his peers who will be trying to navigate their first seasons as professionals.
In terms of off the court impact, as a Blazers fan, it is great to see McCollum taking the time to keep his writing skills sharp, in addition to helping fellow young players who may struggle with the transition to the NBA. Besides this article, McCollum has recently interviewed both NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his assistant, NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum in order to stay on top of his journalism game.
From an on the court standpoint, McCollum also touched upon a few noteworthy subjects. Likely the most important of these was his advice for incoming rookies to, “Make defense a priority and not an afterthought.” This is music to my ears, and advice that I hope McCollum takes to heart himself.
As recent playoffs have shown, having a strong defense is not optional when chasing playoff success. Defense matters, and it is pleasing to see that a key cog of the Blazers’ youth movement is on board with this sentiment. Defense relies far more on sheer effort and simple court awareness than offense does, so in theory, with the right attitude, the Blazers could potentially start making strides on this end of the floor.
McCollum also alluded to his allotment of minutes (or lack thereof) last season, albeit indirectly. Saying that he was “grateful” that he was not simply given minutes because of his draft position, he later added, “Instead of thinking of reasons why your coach should be playing you, honestly assess reasons as to why he isn’t,” as a bit of sage advice for the incoming rookies.
This tells us that McCollum is aiming to earn more minutes, as he should. Last season presented an interesting conundrum in terms of playing time – young players (such as McCollum) needed playing time to develop, but the team was so focused on winning in the present they were willing to sacrifice this development by playing more established veterans.
While it is not yet official, it appears pretty certain that last year’s spark off the bench, Mo Williams, will not be with the Blazers next year. His point guard void will largely be filled by Steve Blake, and, as Julian covered earlier, Blake is more of a facilitator than Williams is. With Williams’ offensive contributions absent, it looks like the perfect storm for McCollum to start showcasing his offensive talents in order to counteract the loss of Williams’ scoring.
This is all on paper, however. As McCollum himself said, nothing is a given, so he will have to prove that he has earned (and is able to) shoulder more of the burden off the bench. With few options for scoring off the bench, the Blazers coaching staff may not even have a choice, and McCollum may be forced to assume a larger role.
If this is the case, let us hope that McCollum’s burgeoning sophomore confidence and hard work in the off-season will be enough.