The Portland Trail Blazers had an almost miraculous win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night, largely due to rookie CJ Elleby’s contributions. Portland wasn’t expected to win the game, given the 76ers were number one in the Eastern Conference and the Blazers were missing four out of five of their starters to injury, including point guard, Damian Lillard. The Blazers rookie ended up with 31 minutes and he made the most of them, scoring 15 points, getting 7 rebounds and an assist.
Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian spoke with Elleby’s family after his incredible game, and they were just as excited as the rest of Rip City.
“We’re just real excited, we were thrilled,” Bill Elleby said. “Man, he came out and did it tonight.”
Elleby’s father, Bill, said they'd expected Elleby to get more minutes after CJ McCollum went down with an injury that took him out of the rotation for some time. The rookie got some playing time in both the Milwaukee game on February 1st and again in Washington DC on February 2nd, but neither game saw big minutes.
Bill Elleby said he would tell his son to be patient and be ready mentally. To bring that “Gary Payton defense,” and play with high energy. Attack the basket. Be aggressive. All of the same pieces of advice Bill had given his son over the years while he starred at Seattle’s Cleveland High School and later at WSU.
Elleby was ready for Thursday night’s game in Philadelphia.
“I feel like I was just really focused. I was resting, stretching, got in the ice bath a little bit, soaked in some cold water,” he said. “I was really just trying to get my mind right all day.”
Elleby said Lillard gave him pointers before and during the game on where he needed to be on the court, what he should be thinking about and focusing on. And to be vocal and talk through things with teammates in order to help keep his mind sharp and focused.
You can read more about CJ Elleby’s incredible game, his story and the reactions from his family and teammates in Fentress’ article for The Oregonian here.
The Trail Blazers take on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday at 10am.