We interrupt your normal programming (Rip City Rewind) on this Saturday to bring you a special news bulletin … Blazers’ rookie C.J. McCollum made his pro debut and looked quite good!
This has been a long-awaited debut for McCollum ever since the lottery pick broke his left foot back in October. Twelve long weeks later, we finally got to see what we’ve been waiting for; McCollum in action — albeit with the D-League’s Idaho Stampede. Of course this has been a long, long wait for C.J. as he broke this same foot during his senior year at Lehigh and then before he could play a meaningful game for the Blazers, he broke it again. He showed his appreciation for the moment early on Friday:
“It’s been so long since I had an actual game day. Thank ya Lord. Only thing on the mind of a shark is eat”
You can tell that McCollum has been chomping at the bit to get some game action. He broke his left foot 10 games into his season with Lehigh last year, entered the NBA Draft, was selected 10th overall by the Blazers, and then broke the same foot in training camp. It has been approximately 12 weeks since that injury and this debut has been long-awaited.
Little did we know the debut would be for the D-League’s Idaho Stampede, however at this point that doesn’t seem to matter much. The important thing is that C.J. is healthy are ready to contribute. The anticipation had been growing and then about mid-day on Friday the Blazers announced that he would not be starting and he would only play about 18-20 minutes. Talk about a debbie-downer.
McCollum did only play 17 minutes in his debut and, as reported, he did not start. However, the 17 minutes were stellar. C.J. managed 13 points, six assists, six rebounds and two steals in that limited span while shooting 6-for-13 (13 shots in 17 minutes! Eat your heart out, J.R. Smith) from the floor. All was not amazing as C.J. did have three turnovers and went 0-for-4 from 3-point range on the night. Here are his post-game comments to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com:
“I thought it went OK. I felt good in terms of movement. There was no pain. It was good to run up and down the court and play in a real game. The great thing is no injuries. Obviously you want to get the win, but I felt like it was a good start and something to build on.”
Here are the game highlights:
There it is again — that positive can-do attitude that a lot of people might not have after struggling through frustrating injuries back-to-back like he did. I think C.J. is going to be a pivotal part of the bench rotation moving forward for these Blazers.
However, not everyone thinks the way I do. Joe Freeman of Oregon Live does not think the rookie will crack Stotts’ strict 9-man rotation anytime soon (Article here).
While Freeman makes some valid points it’s hard not to drive a Corvette that’s just sitting in your garage, right? The Blazers bench is improved but still struggles to put points on the board (23.9 points per game – 27th in NBA) and an instant-offense type of guy like McCollum can aid those struggles a lot.
Do we have another Microwave (If you don’t know who it is, Google it, then re-assess your life) on our hands? I don’t know about going that far…yet; however I do know McCollum can fill it up and Stotts need to find a rotation spot for him anyway he can.
**You can contact Chris regarding this article on Twitter: @Chris_Reichert