Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum has weighed in on backcourt teammate Damian Lillard’s mindset and his commitment to the franchise.
McCollum joined ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on the Woj Pod this week to discuss his new role as National Basketball Player’s Association President and the Blazers’ upcoming season.
McCollum addressed reports about Lillard considering asking for a trade, initially raised by True Hoop’s Henry Abbott last month.
“I dont want to speak for him but having a close relationship, Dame and I talk every day, or every other day, from sharing memes, to sending videos to each other to serious talks about our season, what it takes to win, what it’s going to take to win a championship.”
“I have a pretty good sense of where he’s at and I think his goal is to win a championship, at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. We want to put ourselves in the best position to win a championship, he’s all in at this stage, at this stage I can say that he’s all in.”
“He just wants to win at the end of the day and I think he’s shown historically that he’s the type of person that if he thinks something, feels something, he says something. And if someone comes out with something that’s not true, he will correct it, whether that’s through the media or on Twitter.”
“But on all accounts based on what I’ve heard, based on what I’ve seen I think he just wants to win a championship and he wants to do it in Portland, we’ve talked about the parade route, we’ve shared what it would be like, what that would feel like and that’s our goal, that’s his goal I know it, we’ve spoken on it many many times.”
“From that standpoint, right now our focus is just on getting better and improving, I personally want to improve and I have improved in terms of what I’m working on and how I’m trying to get better for next season, I wasn’t happy with how the season ended, not only for our team, but me personally and I think it’s just more so looking inward, how do you improve and that’s how I’ve always viewed things, I don’t look for excuses or pointing the finger at others. I figure out how I can get become better because that’s what I can control.”
On his relationship with new coach Chauncey Billups
“I think he just has a good sense of, one, what it takes to win, what it takes to win a championship having won in Detroit and, two, that communication level, that understanding of players and being a guard, him being a defensive-minded guard who can obviously score. When you play point guard on a time like the Detroit Pistons, you got to be able to impact both ends of the court but also be fierce and I think he brings all those things.”
“He’s a very very blunt person, very honest person, we’ve had a lot of conversations about defense, about what it’s going to take. I’ve already spoken to him a lot about accountability, hold me accountable, hold Dame accountable, you got to challenge us and we know that’s the only way for us to improve.
Offensively, we’re going to be top three, top four, you could put us out there with you and Chris Haynes and a couple of other guys and we’ll figure out a way to be top five on offense.
We’ve got to really make a dedication to that defensive end. He’s talked about figuring out ways to continue to implement more movement, figuring out ways to continue to tweak some of things we were already doing and add to that for a roster standpoint, a roster composition standpoint.
On how good this team is.
“We made the playoffs eight straight years, we went to the conference finals, we’re one of the only teams that has consistently been good and consistently probably out performed our expectations and I think this is another year where we’re not going to be predicted to win a championship, I don’t think we’ve ever gone into a season where they said we’re they’re the favorites to win a championship.”
“For me personally, I don’t know what’s going to happen this season, I don’t know what the team’s going to look like when we get out there and play together but I do know that we’re going to figure out how to get it done because that’s what we do. We figure out a way regardless of circumstances.”
“What I can assure you is that I will have another fantastic start to my season, I’ve been working on my game, I know our players have been working on their games, I’ve spoken to Nurk, I’ve spoken to RoCo, I’ve spoken to D (Lillard).”
“I know the type of mentality and mindset they have approaching this season, we understand what’s on the line, we understand what’s at stake and we hear the noise and I personally hear the noise.”
“So I’m looking forward to this season and I know that based on what I’ve seen historically, we have leadership, we have guys who have been here before and going into my ninth season, I look forward to it.”
On his relationship with Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey.
“Neil and I have a great relationship, very transparent in terms of expectations, how I’m performing, input, things of that nature. He’s been a great resource for me, a blunt resource if anybody knows Neil. If I’m playing like (bleep), he’s going to tell me I’m playing like (bleep) if I’m not shooting the ball well.”
“I’ve always given information when it’s appropriate, when its necessary, in terms of feedback on players who I think that can be helpful, things of that nature, but I also believe in doing your job. My job is to play basketball, continue to get better and help our team win. And his job is to figure out how to help us win from a management standpoint, from a roster construction standpoint, from all the cap speculation and things they have to manoeuvre.”
“So I kind of let him do his thing, but we do have a very transparent relationship along with Dame and continue to communicate things obviously. When you’ve been within an organization for so long you’re included in certain things and you’re privy to certain information as I’m sure most franchises and most organizations do and have that type of relationship with their players. But I’m thankful to have a relationship with Neil, I’m thankful to be in Portland.”
The Lillard discussion begins at the 27-minute mark. You can listen here.