CJ McCollum drops 25 and some nostalgia on the Portland Trail Blazers

CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

It’s never easy saying goodbye to a long-time friend, or family member. The Portland Trail Blazers and their fans felt that sentiment when they said goodbye to shooting guard CJ McCollum, one of the greatest players in team history.

McCollum was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on February 8 in a move that sent Josh Hart and others to Portland. Before that deal, CJ made quite an impression on his first NBA team.

He was drafted by the Blazers tenth overall in the 2013 draft out of Lehigh University. McCollum wasn’t a key contributor in his first two seasons. During his rookie season, he suffered a broken left foot in practice, which required surgery. He would go on to appear in just 38 games, none of which he played as a starter.

CJ McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Remembering CJ McCollum’s time with the Portland Trail Blazers

His second season in the NBA saw his numbers go up slightly, but not quite good enough to earn him a spot in the starting lineup. However, it did earn him a trip to the Idaho Stampede, the Blazers’ Development League team at the time. In two games with the Stampede, he averaged 1.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.

By CJ’s third season, he started to become the CJ McCollum we all know and came to love, more than tripling his numbers in points (20.8), and added 4.3 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game, as well.

Due to his impressive third-year breakout, CJ was named the 2016 NBA Most Improved Player.

In his time with Portland, he also participated in the NBA’s Three-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend in Toronto (2016) and New Orleans (2017). On January 31, 2018, McCollum scored a career-high 50 points versus the Chicago Bulls, a game in which he also set a franchise record for most points in a quarter with 28 in the first.

He was named Western Conference Player of the Week in early November 2018, leading the team in scoring with 25.7 points per game in that stretch.

True Trail Blazers fans won’t soon forget his inspiring series against the Denver Nuggets in 2019, helping to propel Portland to their first Western Conference Finals trip in almost two decades. For the series, he averaged over 26 points, including a 37-point explosion in Game 7.

Goodbye Portland/Hello New Orleans:
While he ultimately ended up in New Orleans, the Pelicans weren’t the only team showing interest in CJ according to Adrian Wojnarowski:

"“McCollum has a lot of value around this league. You know what you’re getting with him. This is a player who adds a lot of maturity to any locker room he’s in. Certainly a dynamic offensive player.”"

Portland would trade McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell for Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomáš Satoranský, Didi Louzada, and a conditional 2022 first-round draft pick.

"“We both knew (McCollum and Damian Lillard) that this point would be coming, but that don’t make it no easier to deal with,” Lillard via the Blazers Casey Holdahl."

McCollum made his debut with the Pelicans on February 10th in a 112-97 loss to the Miami Heat, in which he scored 15 points on 6-21 shooting.

"“It’s been a fun ride, I’m thankful to be here. Happy to be able to play. A little tired but I’m going to get a good night’s sleep tonight. A little flat, but I liked the energy that we played with,” McCollum told reporters via The Oregonian’s Aaron Fentress, after his New Orleans debut."

Welcome back to Portland CJ:

McCollum returned to the Moda Center for the first time Wednesday to a standing ovation and a moving video tribute. The Pelicans defeated the Blazers 117-107. McCollum led all scorers with 25. Hart and his teammates acquired in the trade return to New Orleans for the first time on April 7.

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