The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in a play-in to sneak into the playoffs in August, but at least one major network’s projections do not see them qualifying for the tournament this upcoming season. Star players are taking note of that.
ESPN released its projected final standings on Tuesday for the 2020-21 NBA season, and the Blazers were not listed as one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference. CJ McCollum shared the chart on Twitter and tagged teammate Damian Lillard.
While Portland finished with a losing record of 35-39 and nearly missed the playoffs, they closed out the regular season by winning seven of nine games. The Blazers had to face the Los Angeles Lakers, the eventual NBA champions, after defeating Memphis in a play-in series. They lost the L.A. series 4-1, but it’s hard to hold that against them.
Lillard went on a tear to close out the regular season in Orlando, scoring over 40 points in four of Portland’s final five games. He demanded some respect on his name after one monster performance, so ESPN’s slight should motivate him heading into this season.
The Blazers may not be viewed as a title contender, but they’re one of those teams you don’t want to play in the postseason. McCollum and Lillard are both capable of taking games over and making life difficult on even the toughest opponents. Portland fans can only hope they keep ESPN’s projections at the forefront of their minds.
The Portland Trail Blazers may not have been lucky enough to draft Obi Toppin on Wednesday, but that didn’t stop C.J. McCollum from singing the forward’s praises.
Toppin was taken No. 8 overall by the New York Knicks. McCollum, whose Blazers lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the Los Angeles Lakers, shared his thoughts on Toppin via Twitter.
I really like Obi . Hope he does well. Seen him catch a lob from half court and windmill it 3 years ago and I had no idea who he was lol. I told him if you can make a corner trey with that bounce you will be a lottery pick and cash out.
There is no doubt about Toppin’s skill and potential. He was National Player of the Year at Dayton and averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season. He made an impressive 63.3 percent of his field goals.
The big question about Toppin is his defense, but like McCollum noted, Obi has plenty of athleticism and offensive potential.
First CJ McCollum dispatched of the Memphis Grizzlies in Orlando, Fla. on Saturday, and then he broke out with his best Mike Tyson impression.
McCollum is playing for Portland despite having a fracture in his lower back. That didn’t stop him from scoring 29 points in the Trail Blazers’ 126-122 win over Memphis to secure the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
McCollum and teammate Damian Lillard were interviewed by ABC’s Lisa Salters after the game. Salters asked how McCollum was able to play with his back injury. That’s when CJ did his Mike Tyson.
The minimum salary in the NBA is nearly $900,000 and the average salary is $7.7 million. With numbers so high, most people would think NBA players are doing well financially, even during tough times like now when they’re facing possible missed paychecks. But that might not be the case.
CJ McCollum, who has played in the NBA for seven seasons, estimates that about a third of players live paycheck-to-paycheck. He gave his guess in response to a question from Jay Williams on “The Boardroom.”
“I would say out of 450 players … 150 probably are living paycheck to paycheck,” McCollum said.
“I think a lot of guys are going to be hurting especially people on minimums or people that didn’t just budget correctly and didn’t expect this to happen,” McCollum said, via The Boardroom. “Maybe they loaned money or paid money to family. Maybe they’re taking care of multiple people and now there’s a work stoppage for us and for a lot of people in America.”
McCollum, 28, wasn’t saying that to elicit sympathy for players. He actually has donated money in Portland to help with COVID-19 relief. But he said that to share that many people — even ones who might surprise you — are also struggling and/or concerned.
The players are in a dispute with the owners over whether they will get their next payments (scheduled for April 15) and how much they will receive.
The Portland Trail Blazers made a surprisingly deep playoff run this season when they reached the Western Conference Finals, and they have proven this offseason that they are intent on keeping their core together.
On Tuesday, the Blazers agreed to a three-year, $100 million contract extension with CJ McCollum. The star guard had two years remaining on his previous deal.
Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a three-year, $100 million contract extension — extending his current deal to five years and $157 million, his agent, Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports, tells ESPN.
McCollum has been the model of consistency for the Blazers for several years now, and he averaged 21.0 points per game last season. He elevated his game in the postseason and averaged 24.7 points, which was one of the primary reasons for Portland’s success.
The Blazers signed Damian Lillard to a max contract extension worth around $200 million earlier in the offseason, so their backcourt is now locked down for several years.
The Golden State Warriors are tough to play not just because of their superstars, but because of their style of play, and CJ McCollum got a first-hand taste of that during the Western Conference Finals.
McCollum admitted that playing the Warriors is tough largely because of how synchronized they are on the court.
“The biggest difference you see with the Warriors compared to everybody else is how aligned they are,” McCollum said on the “Pull Up” podcast, via Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Obviously, they’ve had some issues off the court this season. But once they step on that court, the communication is there. The understanding of where everyone is supposed to be is there consistently.
“You don’t ever really see them have crazy lapses. Offensively, constant movement off the ball and everyone is always looking to get Steph open; always looking to screen for Klay. And when they’re open, the ball is delivered on time and on target consistently.”
It’s this sort of thing that has allowed the debate to take hold over whether the Warriors are better without Kevin Durant, once which Durant addressed on Friday. It’s also why they’ll still be formidable even if he departs via free agency.
The woman behind a famous meme involving CJ McCollum has received renewed attention with the Portland Trail Blazers making a deep postseason run, and McCollum is crediting her with helping to motivate him.
Not long before tip-off of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Blazers and Golden State Warriors, Jennifer Williams sat down for an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. McCollum came over to introduce himself, and he said “thank you” to her for providing motivation when she sent her now-famous tweet last year.
After DeMarcus Cousins signed with the Warriors last August, McCollum ripped the “disgusting stars” who are chasing championships with Golden State. Jennifer, who is a Warriors fan, zinged McCollum by telling him to “win a playoff game then talk.” McCollum replied by telling her, “I’m trying Jennifer,” and the response went viral.
And here we are. A simple tweet from a rival fan has become one of the most entertaining stories of the 2019 postseason. If the Blazers go on to pull a major upset and reach the NBA Finals, we know know it was Jennifer who helped get them there.
The Golden State Warriors will have to get through the Portland Trail Blazers if they want to make it to a fifth consecutive NBA Finals. Assuming Kevin Durant’s opinion has not changed much since the offseason, he can’t be all that worried about his upcoming opponent.
Back in July, Durant made an appearance on CJ McCollum’s “Pull Up” Podcast and talked about the upcoming season. McCollum was upset that DeMarcus Cousins had just taken less money to join the Warriors and wanted the big man to sign with Portland. Durant dismissed McCollum’s frustrations, because he said the Blazers star should not be concerned about contending for a championship.
KD told CJ McCullom not to worry about contending this season and to just enjoy playing. CJ said the Blazers would meet him at the top, and here we are. pic.twitter.com/yzxigjbRR8
“I mean, you know you guys aren’t gonna win a championship,” Durant said while laughing. “Let’s be honest. I like y’all. You’re hard to stop, but I mean, come on. You can’t be upset about this.”
Durant went on to advise McCollum to “just keep playing and don’t worry about what goes on at the top of things.”
Durant and McCollum are obviously close, so Durant’s comments were really nothing more than friendly banter in that context. Still, it would not be a surprise if the Blazers use them as motivation to play up the whole “they don’t think we belong here” angle.
McCollum scored 37 points in Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday and made some huge plays on both sides of the ball. The Blazers will be underdogs, but their confidence should be at its peak. That makes them as dangerous as any team the Warriors have faced.