CJ McCollum’s meteoric rise on the court combined with his clean-cut and likeable personality has taken the NBA by storm over the past 24 months.
But according to Jason Quick of CSNNW, a belligerent and bratty McCollum needed to be pulled into line and shown his place while sitting on the sidelines during his injury-riddled rookie year.
Quick highlights that it had been reported to Neil Olshey at the time (the 2013-14 season) that McCollum had been “ruffling the feathers of some veterans” with what was perceived as an “Ivy League attitude.”
Perceived tensions reached a fever pitch during practice one day when McCollum may not have shown the appropriate respect for then-team leader LaMarcus Aldridge.
“I still remember it,’’ Damian Lillard said of the practice. “He was actually on my team.’’
As the Blazers scrimmaged, McCollum became isolated on then-Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge.
“He did a move that kind of rocked LA a little bit,’’ Lillard recalled. “And CJ rose up and took the jumper.’’
As the ball was in the air, Aldridge yelled “That’s off!”
It wasn’t. The ball swished.
“And when CJ made it, he was like ‘Shut up!.’’’ Lillard said, wide-eyed at the recollection. “That was his response: ‘Shut up.’’’
Aldridge, a prideful and sensitive veteran, was not pleased.
Quick highlights that McCollum also chose not to take part in rookie hazing rituals – a tradition seemingly common within most NBA player groups. Such rituals included rookies carrying veteran’s laundry, running errands and sometimes wearing silly outfits.
“Sometimes, I would just be like, ‘Nah, I’m not doing that,’’’ McCollum said. “I mean, think about it … think about it: You are asleep and somebody comes knocking at your hotel room door, they have a key made and come into your room at 2am and pour water on you? Come on, man.’’
So after enough feathers were ruffled, McCollum found himself in Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey’s office, where he was told:
“Understand where you are at and where you want to get to,’’ McCollum recalled. “And just blend in.’’
From there things changed, and McCollum realized dues needed to be paid to earn the respect he now has as the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player.
“I got really good at my duties after a while,’’ McCollum said, noting he had to be the team’s “rookie” for two seasons because the team was void a pick in 2014. “Eventually, you figure out it’s about trust. If you show you can be trusted to do these things, they can trust you on the court.’’
McCollum has since found balance off the court, opening the CJ McCollum Dream Center, taking an interest in Oregon red wines and drawing inspiration from the book The Obstacle is the Way, given to him by injured center Festus Ezeli.
“We have to remember: this is a game. That’s why I try to have fun, why I smile, why I dance … this is a game,’’ McCollum said. “It’s a game that ends. One day, it ends. When it does, I want people to know, I want my kids to know, that I did more than just play basketball.’’