It has long been known that CJ McCollum held a special position in the eyes of former Portland Trail Blazers’ President of Basketball Operations, Neil Olshey. Now that Olshey has gone, the conversation around McCollum has grown from whispers to a loud roar. Jason Quick of the Athletic spoke with McCollum regarding where he is and how he feels about the situation, starting with a text message McCollum wrote to Quick following the team’s loss against the Clippers and an intimate post-game interview.
“Oregon is home,” McCollum wrote. “Always will be. I got married here. My son will be born here. We bought 318 acres here and started planting our vineyard here. This city and organization have been very good to me and my family. We’re forever grateful.”
McCollum addressed one aspect of the craziness of the current situation prior to his post-game departure.
“Try having a kid in the middle of COVID,” McCollum said before leaving the Moda Center. “That shit ain’t normal. Now, try having a kid during COVID amid trade rumors in the middle of the season. Yeah …”
Asked about his relationship with Damian Lillard, McCollum was forthright.
“Me and Dame have a good relationship,” McCollum said. “I think when Dame speaks, you hear him. When you hear ‘sources’ and ‘anonymous’, I don’t necessarily know if that is Dame or not, because it’s not Dame putting his name on it. He generally puts his name on things. I know where he stands with me, and he knows where I stand with him. The organization, they need to do what is best for themselves.”
Regarding the dismissal of Olshey, McCollum reflected on their personal relationship.
“It was tough, unfortunate,” McCollum said of Olshey’s firing. “Neil is a good friend of mine, obviously. He was someone who had faith in me, trust and belief in me, and I was in a solid position. I mean, a GM of a franchise, having been in the NBA a long time … it was just unfortunate that the situation occurred, and what happened in the investigation. I mean, obviously, they found something that was worthy of letting him go, which is not ideal. But it was tough.”
However, McCollum was dismissive when Quick inquired about his prospects in Portland.
I asked him if he felt his future in Portland was more cloudy or uncertain now that Olshey is gone.
“That’s a question for somebody else. I just do my job: show up for work and do my job,” McCollum said.
Quick was curious as to whether or not something else was at play, and McCollum pointed out that his wife, Elise, is due soon with their first child.
“My wife is going to have a baby in the next week to four weeks, so that’s where my focus is right now,” McCollum said. “I try to play to the best of my ability with my job, I’m going to show up and do the best of my ability, but … would it affect you? Wife about to have a baby in the next month or so? Would that affect you? She can’t get on the plane (to meet him on the road), she can’t fly, she can’t travel … I’m not here to make excuses. I’ve got to get better. We have to get better as a team. We have to get better as a staff … but there are just some things you can’t control. I have a baby on the way.”
McCollum noted how unique this season has been.
“This is different than anything I’ve ever experienced because of the circumstances,” McCollum said. “This is the first year of my career where we lost our whole coaching staff, brought in a new coach, a new staff, the GM gets fired in the middle of the season … all of that affects you on the court. But there is no excuses. I didn’t come here to tell you ‘There’s a lot of shit going on’ … but yeah, there is. There’s shit going on — every day. And I’m a fucking human being. But look, at the end of the day, my job is to play basketball. So I go play basketball.”
McCollum expressed support for his new coach.
“I like Chauncey,” McCollum said. “I like his approach. I think he’s approaching things the right way. He’s not a guy who thinks he knows it all. I think he’s approaching things the right way — asking for feedback, asking questions, and he’s holding himself accountable, which is important. It’s on us to be better, and he has stated that.”
McCollum told Quick that he hears Rip City.
“We play in a city that is passionate,” McCollum said. “The fans are passionate, they care, and obviously the city wants us to be better — a better team, a better organization. In their eyes, there are only so many things that can happen for us to do that … so it is what it is.”
He acknowledged that it is on him to hold himself accountable for his performance on the court.
“I ain’t never run from nothing in my life,” McCollum said. “I have success, I don’t run from it. And when I have failure, I don’t run from it. It is what it is. I don’t be trippin’ … I do my job and I go home. I see everything, I hear everything and I understand it. It’s part of the process.”
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