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CJ McCollum Talks Lung Injury, Early Season Awards with DeMar DeRozan

On his first Pull Up pod since his collapsed lung injury, CJ McCollum relived the injury and brought on four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan.

Portland Trail Blazers v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers star guard CJ McCollum was diagnosed with a collapsed lung that leaves him with no timetable for return.

In the meantime, he’s made quick work of getting back into one of his other specialties with the Pull Up podcast. On his 127th episode, he recounted thoughts from his lung injury and brought in Chicago Bulls star guard DeMar DeRozan to discuss early-season thoughts, DeRozan’s upbringing, and everything in between.

McCollum’s reliving of the collapsed lung was particularly noteworthy, in that he basically played through it for a short period before he experienced shortness of breath. As he described it:

“Playing against the Celtics, it’s the fourth quarter. I fight over a screen on defense and I think I catch an elbow to like my rib, sternum, chest area, and I kind of just shrug it off. I don’t really pay much attention to it, it’s just another part of the game. As the game continues to go on, I sprint for a fast break, I jump for a layup, I get fouled. I kind of get hit in my chest again, like the side area. I don’t think much of it. I shoot the free throws.

A couple of minutes later, as I’m kind of going down the court, I notice that I’m having shortness of breath. I’m like, ‘This is kind of weird, I’m a quarter of the season in, I’m in good shape. Why am I having shortness of breath? Why I am having right-side chest pain?’ But also, my right rib area is uncomfortable and kind of painful. I end up looking towards the bench and kind of moving my arm, moving my shoulder, saying that this doesn’t feel right.

Long story short, the game is out of hand, we’re losing. I end up getting subbed out and walk right to the training room. I ask the staff for an X-ray. I say ‘Hey, something’s not right. I’m having trouble breathing. It’s uncomfortable. It feels like Mike Tyson punched me in my ribs. I don’t know what’s wrong. I’ve never had this feeling before. It feels like I’m having a heart attack but it’s on the right side of my body.”

It was later that McCollum learned that he had a collapsed lung, and he further detailed the shock he went through in learning that. As he notes, he is set to start therapy this weekend.

Later on, he brought in DeMar DeRozan, one of the NBA’s top Most Valuable Player candidates. In discussing DeRozan’s playstyle transformation from Toronto to San Antonio — where he set career-highs in assists and balanced scoring with more playmaking — McCollum theorized an interesting point: players have skills that observers wouldn’t even know about because they aren’t tasked with using them on a night-to-night basis. It started with DeRozan talking about playing for Gregg Popovich, and led to this exchange:

DeRozan: That’s the first time I really broke down and talked to somebody about it. It can be uncomfortable if you’re not built for it because he will challenge you to that point. You’ve really got to be built for it to sustain Pop consistently on you, challenging you. But he always wants the best out of his players, and you understand why he’s one of the GOATs for a reason.

McCollum: I think it’s cool like you talked about. You averaged 28, so it’s like, ‘I’m elite in this category, right? How do I get better at the other things?’ And, you always had it, you just didn’t have to use it. I think that’s what people don’t understand. It’s like, a lot of guys are good at a lot of different stuff, they just aren’t asked to do that on their team or put in position to have to do that, so they never show it. I think that was one of the cool things about watching y’all. You could go score 30, but you could also get eight assists, seven rebounds, one to two turnovers, and that ratio looks crazy with the efficiency of shooting well from the field, getting to the free-throw line, and adding in some 3-pointers to where the analytics guys can’t say anything at that point.

In regards to their early-season award predictions, here’s how both McCollum and DeRozan viewed them playing out:

Rookie of the Year: Evan Mobley, CLE (McCollum)
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green, GSW (both)
Most Improved Player of the Year: Miles Bridges, CHA (both)
Coach of the Year: Steve Kerr / J.B. Bickerstaff (McCollum); Billy Donovan, CHI (DeRozan)
Most Valuable Player of the Year: Stephen Curry, GSW (both)

There’s a neat, multi-team aspect with this, in how McCollum and DeRozan spoke so positively of some of the players around the NBA. Along the rest of the podcast, McCollum asked questions that helped fans to learn more about DeRozan with topics such as his favorite cartoons, McCollum’s thoughts on DeRozan’s potential jersey retirement in Toronto, stories about the artist Drake, and his upbringing from Compton, among much else.