Even a few days after CJ McCollum has left the Portland Trail Blazers, reality has yet to truly set in.
Thursday night, McCollum made his debut for his new team, the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s the first time McCollum has worn a jersey that didn’t belong to Portland in his NBA career.
On Friday, after a whirlwind of a week, McCollum expressed his gratitude to Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, the rest of his teammates and the fans in an open letter on the Players’ Tribune.
He also shared some insight into the moments leading up to his eventual trade.
McCollum set the scene on how he was sitting in the locker room with Lillard the night before he was traded, expecting a move to be made with the Pelicans.
It’s actually funny because the night before the trade went down, I was in the locker room with Dame, and we were just cracking jokes and talking, and right as I was about to go into the steam room, my phone rang. And if you know me, then you know I always have it on Do Not Disturb. Except with everything going on around the deadline, I put my agent in Favorites so his calls would go through no matter what.
So when the phone rang, it was like that horror movie kind of ring. Everybody stopped. I looked down at my phone, and I saw that it was him.
McCollum’s agent explained that a trade hadn’t happened yet but that it was incredibly likely that it would happen soon.
Tuesday morning, McCollum learned of the news minutes before it was broken by insiders with his wife and newborn son by his side.
Right then, my phone rings.
At 6 a.m., you already know who it is.
I pick up and it’s my agent, and he tells me that the deal is finally done. I’m going to New Orleans, for real. The news would probably break in a few minutes, so get ready.
And I remember just sitting there with my wife, and Little Man is all quiet, and everything in the house is peaceful, and my phone isn’t blowing up yet, and we’re just looking at eachother like: Wow. O.K. What now???
The rest of the article (a must-read for Portland fans, and even non-Portland fans), dives into some of the relationships he built and the gratitude he had for being part of the Blazers.
As someone who hasn’t followed the Blazers religiously until I joined BE a couple months ago, I now have a great understanding of the pairing Dame and CJ were and how special it was. It was admirable from afar, but reading McCollum’s piece gave me an appreciation for what those two were as a backcourt and what McCollum meant to the city and fanbase.
While their efforts ultimately didn’t accomplish what they set out to do, it doesn’t take away from the impact he had in Portland.