After Six Weeks Of Rehab, McCollum Says 'I'll Know When I'm Ready'

by Casey Holdahl
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CJ McCollum has been here before.

The 6-4 guard in his eighth season out of Lehigh was playing the best basketball of his career when he suffered a small hairline fracture to the lateral cuneiform in his left foot in a win versus the Atlanta Hawks on January 16, and while the fracture didn’t require surgery, it kept McCollum in a walking boot for four weeks. Now out of the boot, McCollum has continued into the next stage of his rehabilitation, which includes ramping up workouts both in the weight room and on the court.

But between this being the third left foot fracture he’s endured in the last eight years -- he suffered Jones’ fractures in the same foot during his season season at Lehigh and in training camp of his rookie season in Portland -- and the need to build back up the muscles and tendons in his left leg after a month of immobility, McCollum and the Trail Blazers are taking a careful approach to his return.

So while it’s possible he’ll return to the court some time before the All-Star break -- the team says he will be reevaluated on March 2 -- it seems more likely that he’ll rejoin the the lineup once the team starts the second half of their 2021-20 regular season schedule, which begins with the Suns at the Moda Center on March 11.

Here’s what McCollum had to say about the injury, rehabilitation and eventual return after going through a light workout and treatment during the Trail Blazers’ practice in Los Angeles Thursday.

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How is the process going? Give us a status report on the rehabilitation.

CJ McCollum: It’s going well, progressing. I’ll be at six weeks on Saturday, slowly starting to do a little bit more. Loading the foot, movement, stretching it, trying to get my base and my balance back. Happy with how it’s going.

What are the rehabilitation goals at this point? Is the idea that the fracture still needs time to heal or have you moved on to dealing more with the ancillary issues associated with breaking a bone in your foot?

CJ McCollum: Build the strength back up in the foot and the leg, get used to movements again on the court. Obviously you start in the weight room and you kind of progress from a strength, power, speed, balance standpoint and then slowly, slowly introduce more and more force and to see how the foot reacts and kind of go from there. But conditioning and stuff is what we’re doing in the weight room, a little bit of it on the court. As we continue to get farther into the rehab and more comfortable with what we’re doing, add more workload.

This three-game trip is the first time you’ve been out with the team since the injury. Is the idea that, with most of the team medical staff traveling, the road is the best place to get in your rehab?

CJ McCollum: I was immobile for four weeks, so it didn’t make sense for me to travel with the boot on, stuff like that. Once I got a week in (out of the boot) at the house I felt comfortable to go out. I was moving around and wanted to be around the team, wanted to work with our staff, with Jess (Ellis) with Todd (Forcier) and make sure I’m able to progress toward returning back to play. And I just want to be around and it’s 75 degrees in L.A., so why not?

Having broken your left foot on two other occasions, are you treating this injury with extra care, even though it’s of a different nature than the two previous breaks? How will you know when you’re ready to get back out there?

CJ McCollum: I’m not coming back until I’m ready, until I feel comfortable, until my foot is completely healed. I’m happy with where I’m at. Guys are doing a great job of stepping up and I’m not gonna rush my process. You know when you’re ready and I’ll know when I’m ready.

Do you think that might have been different when you were younger? It seems like some times players, and especially those trying to make their name in the NBA, are so determined to get back on the court as soon as possible that they try to return a bit sooner than they should.

CJ McCollum: I mean, I’ve been through this before. You always want to get back as soon as possible but you have to understand the long game. Your health is extremely important, you only get one of these body parts, so you’ve got to take good care of them. I’ve done the rehab process as a young player and tried to come back, but your body literally always tells you. It gives you signs and you’ll know if you feel like yourself when you resume activities. But I’m at a place where I’ll be ready when I’m ready. The team understands that, they’re encouraging me to take my time. We want to make sure we get this right, we don’t want short term greed to affect the long term.

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