Times are tough for the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard, Rodney Hood, Zach Collins, and Jusuf Nurkic are all out, and the team is staring up at the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
But, as Jamie Goldberg of The Oregonian/O-live writes, there is a bright spot; CJ McCollum has been stellar in Lillard’s absence:
He realized in that moment that he would have to step up in Lillard’s absence. He was ready for the challenge.
“I’m built for the long haul,” McCollum said. “Historically, I’ve played well in the playoffs, I’ve played well down the stretch in games. I understand there has to be a sense of urgency. We haven’t played well this entire season. For us to have a chance to make the playoffs, I have to be elite, and I’ll do that.”
McCollum has set his career high in assists in back-to-back games, first with 10 against the Pelicans, then 12 in a win over the Pistons.
McCollum has had an up-and-down season, but has shown an aptitude to playing point guard previously unseen. McCollum says it’s all about the mindset:
“Just run the team, be a leader, empower people,” said McCollum about his approach when Lillard isn’t on the court. “Similar to college, similar to what I’ve had to do my whole life to this point. Whatever it takes to help us win. Be aggressive, make the right players, try to take over late.”
Have you been surprised by McCollum’s play with Lillard on the bench? Sound off in the comments below.
Read Jamie’s full article here.