Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum opened up to the media Sunday after being suspended for their first game of the NBA season. McCollum left the bench during an altercation between Caleb Swanigan and Alex Len, turning around after seemingly realizing his error. He offered some choice words on the subject, courtesy of The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman:
"They could have suspended me for the preseason game," McCollum said. "They could have fined me more money and allowed me to play in the regular season game. It's the intent and it's usually up to them, it's to their discretion. So they had a choice. They didn't have to suspend me."
McCollum expressed frustration that he received the harshest penalty from the altercation. Swanigan and Len traded shoves; CJ was not an active participant.
Other Blazers chimed in, too. Damian Lillard contemplated the effectiveness of the rule for peace-keepers. And Evan Turner seemed surprised by the suspension:
"I thought CJ was at the level where you don't get in trouble for that. I was going to walk on the court, but I was like, 'No. They're not messing around -- they would cancel the whole year if I was on the court.' I just figured (with) CJ, they would just let it go."
Turner couldn’t resist joking about his shot count with CJ missing the opener.
Resigned to his opening night fate, McCollum also added to the jokes:
"It cost me a lot of money and the first game of the season. But I should have known better with my history of violence on the court that I would be suspended."
McCollum is out $165,000 for a handful of steps, so he might as well get his money’s worth and use his time to offer critiques of the suspension. He even made a point to say the rule should be reevaluated by former players.
. @CJMcCollum took responsibility for violating the rule but noted it's a rule which should be reevaluated, specifically by former players— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) October 15, 2017
Of course, the most-known use of the rule came when Boris Diaw and Amar’e Stoudemire left the bench following Robert Horry’s hip check on Steve Nash in the 2007 playoffs. Other suspensions for violating this rule include Carl Landry in 2015 and a quartet of Knicks in 1997 (including Patrick Ewing).
While McCollum voiced disappointment in the delayed announcement of his suspension, it wouldn’t have mattered; historically, preseason transgressions lead to regular season suspensions. In their 2014 preseason opener, a scrum with Chicago led to Washington losing Dejuan Blair, Nene, Daniel Orton and Xavier Silas for their regular season opener against the Heat. They lost, 107-95.
But this time, the team is losing one of its two proven stars, not mere role players.