Not too many people were picking the Portland Trail Blazers to do much coming into the season. After losing a couple of key pieces in LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, most experts had them missing the playoffs. With two games left in the regular season, the Blazers are 43-37 and are the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
The biggest reason why might be the team’s second-leading scorer, C.J. McCollum.
“I would just say it’s a season of the unexpected. A lot of media member’s different outlets ruled us off. 26 ½ games was the over under for us in Vegas. Sports Illustrated in the area, certain outlets in the area picked us to finish 29 out of 30, 30 out of 30, or 28 out of 30, in basically 1st , 2nd or 3rd pick in the draft based on the lottery balls,” McCollum told The Jim Rome Show.
“We had a lot of chips; a lot of guys had chips on their shoulders, coming into this season this was a great opportunity for me to get extended minutes, play a significant role on a team, something I hadn’t experienced before. And a lot of players hadn’t been mainstays in the offense and mainstays in the rotation for an extended period of time so guys were ignore to prove themselves and show they could solidify themselves and they did.”
The team clinched a playoff spot last night with their win over the Thunder.
“It felt very good man we had put so much time in over the course of the summer and the season and continuing to work hard and kind of come together,” said McCollum. “A lot of highs and lows big wins and bad losses, and it’s finally fun to see it all come together to be able clinch that playoff spot at home.”
While everyone knows Damian Lillard, it’s impossible to look past the season the 24-year-old McCollum has had. He’s putting up nearly 21 PPG along with four assists and three rebounds.
“I take a lot of pride in the situation,” McCollum said. “The last three years have been a roller coaster ride for me. Being a lottery pick and re-breaking my foot and hearing the doubts and the whispers about he’s injury prone he’s going to be a bust you know he can’t excel at this level and then coming back and breaking my finger last year. Once I got in the rotation it was a trying time for me but just a testament to work ethic, preparation, coaching staff believing in me, the front office entrusting me with backup point guard duties allowing me to play my game and not putting me in a box. They allowed me that creative freedom to shoot crossover’s, step backs, pullup jumpers, contested 15 footers, allowing me to play through mistakes and not have to look over my shoulder and I’m just grateful for the opportunity they provided me. They gave me the chance to sink or swim and I’m swimming.”