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McCollum Sees Bright Future, ‘Lots of Winning’ for Upstart Pelicans

After winning their first play-in game on Wednesday night, the former Blazers star was bullish about his new team’s upcoming success.

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans - Play-In Tournament Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers have been long eliminated from contention in the 2022 NBA Playoffs, though they’ll have ample players from the franchise’s past to keep eyes on this spring. Among those most noteworthy is New Orleans Pelicans star guard CJ McCollum, who not only chipped in a 32-point, six-rebound, seven-assist performance to push his team within one game of a Playoff appearance, but was also buoyant about what it could mean going forward.

As noted through ESPN.com’s Andrew Lopez, the talented two-guard projects “a lot of winning” in the Pelicans’ future.

“This is the start of something special, for sure,” McCollum said. “You see the energy. Feel the energy. My mother is in town; I have some family in town. When we go out to eat, you can feel the city is excited about basketball, as they should [be]. There’s a lot of talent here. We’re playing the game the right way. It’s going to be a lot of winning in our future.”

Should the Pelicans prove victorious in their Friday night duel against the Los Angeles Clippers, it would make the franchise’s first postseason cameo since 2018. McCollum also spoke with excitement about that opportunity.

“I’m happy about it. I’m excited,” McCollum said. “Obviously, we have to try and take care of business in L.A., but when we get back here, I’m looking forward to seeing more sellouts. And we’ll reward them with a high level of play, high level of energy. We’ll leave it all out there on the court.”

In terms of it means for the Blazers, those in desire of Portland acquiring an extra NBA Draft pick will be have their rooting allegiances tied to a sacrilege in Blazers culture: rooting for a Los Angeles-based team.

All told, McCollum has transitioned well since the trade, averaging 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists on 49-39-67 percentage splits. He’s steadied the Pelicans to a 13-13 record, whereas they were just 23-33 without him.