CJ McCollum Talks Contract Extension, Adding Whiteside And Gasol, Team USA And What He's Working On This Summer
On Tuesday, CJ McCollum signed a three-year contract extension, reportedly worth more than $100 million, that will keep the veteran guard under contract with the Trail Blazers through the 2023-24 season.
During a youth basketball camp McCollum is putting on in Beaverton, the 6-3 guard out of Lehigh discussed the extension and what it means for both him and the team going forward, his relationship with Damian Lillard why their partnership works, his thoughts on changes to the roster, the signing of Pau Gasol and the trade for Hassan Whiteside, why he declined to try out for Team USA's FIBA World Cup team, what skills he's working on improving this summer and why it's important for him to put on camps for kids.
(Questions have been paraphrased for clarity.)
Nice little salary. How do you feel about your new contract?
CJ McCollum: Nice little salary? I like the adjective. It's a an honor and a blessing to be in this position. Growing up in Canton, Ohio, going to a small school, the career I've had early on to now, it's a testament to hard work, it's a testament to the organization believing in me, having faith in me throughout my career and up to this point. I'm looking forward to spending five more years here.
Growing up, did you ever think you'd sign a $100 million contract?
CJ McCollum: Well, this is two now. You forgot about the first one. But no, honestly. I was just trying to make it to the NBA, that was the goal. And then once I got here I was trying to stick and stay as long as I could, figure out a way to be successful, figure out a way to help my team win and be productive. I think I've done those things. It's a real blessing to be here, it's a testament to how I was raised, it's a testament to work ethic. Also, the NBA has changed a lot since I was a kid to now. Even since I've been in the NBA, a lot has changed with the game. I'm thankful, I've worked extremely hard to be in this position. It's nice to see the fruits of the labor pay off.
The roster has changed since the end of last season. How do you like the team now?
CJ McCollum: I haven't seen everybody yet. I worked out with (Kent Bazemore) this morning, been able to talk to him a little bit, even during the season some. I think we got some great pieces, hopefully we can everything together. Probably the first year in a long time where we have six, seven new players coming to the roster. Obviously we'll get (Nurkić) back at some point this season, so that will be extremely helpful. We miss him, we missed him last year and we'll miss him for this season until he comes back. But I think the additions, getting some shooting, getting a shot blocker, getting a guy who can finish around the basket, getting some key pieces that can fill certain roles, I think, will help us. But we'll definitely miss the guys we lost.
What kind of addition will Pau Gasol be for this team?
CJ McCollum: That's a big signing for us. I was actually at Cryo when we signed him, so I didn't know until afterwards, but I think he's a big body who can help. He's got a championship pedigree, Hall of Famer, knows how to play the game the right way. Obviously he has the skill set -- he can pass, he can do those things -- but I think his mentorship will be important. Having a guy who has won a championship in the locker room, having a guy who kind of knows what it takes to have success to be around some of our younger guys, not just guards, but bigs as well.
A lot of players look forward to free agency and the trend is toward changing teams more often, so why did you decide to sign an extension?
CJ McCollum: I had two years left on my current deal, but I'm happy with the situation I'm in. I love the city, I bought a home here, look forward to potentially raising a family here. So I think all those things played a factor. Obviously it gives myself security, the team security knowing that I'm not going to become a free agent in two seasons, kind of aligns me to continue to play alongside Dame (Lillard), continue to help build things, not only on the court, but in the community. I think it made sense for me, made sense for the team so I was glad we were able to get it done.
Why did you decided to withdraw from upcoming USA Basketball minicamp?
CJ McCollum: You didn't listen to my podcast! A lot of things factored into it, honestly. The workload, the travel, the timing of it. My grandma's birthday is August 10, I haven't been able to go to her birthday in a while, my fiancé's grandma's birthday is August 14. Just a lot of stuff when into figuring out how to kind of rest to get ready for the season. This was the longest season I've played and obviously I did have an injury this past season, so just being cautious of my workload, how I'm trying to recover and what I'm trying to accomplish this next season, especially knowing that we could be playing into April, May and potentially June. I was just thinking longterm and I felt like it was in my best interest not to do it. I felt like there were some things that I wanted to work on and that USAB would not put me in a position to accomplish a lot of things I wanted to accomplish.
When you sign a contract like this, where does your mind go? Where does that reflection go?
CJ McCollum: I think you go back to the struggle, you go back to the failure, different things that you've gone through in your life to get here and it kind of puts in a perspective that you're glad you went through it, you're glad you were able to overcome it. For me, I like to turn the next page, look forward to how I can continue to build... This is the second or third contract, I was looking at how I could get better for the next one, how I could get better for our team. I've been a guy who's never really been satisfied. Work hard, try to figure out ways to improve, try to figure out ways to sustain a certain level of play. Getting paid is great, it's a great feeling, but there's more to be done, more work to be done. I look forward to that part of it. I worked out at six, took a shower and I've been at camp all day, so I'll reflect with my family, my loved ones later. Right now, just enjoy this time with the kids and continue to plan things for the next couple season.
You and Damian are both under contract for the next five years. Why do the two of you work?
CJ McCollum: I think it's an understanding of how were were raised, who raised us, priorities, figuring out what's important to you as a person. I think, when you get to know somebody on a personal level were you truly understand what makes them tick, what they play for, things they like to do in their spare time, you're around their families, I think you're kind of able to kind of coexist more when you have a relationship. There's people that can coexist who hate each other, but I think when you genuinely care about somebody and seeing them succeed and you're happy for them, I think that makes everything easier and we've both been that way from the beginning. I think it was an authentic relationship that wasn't forced, it wasn't like "Alright, you're teammates, now you've got to be friends." We knew each other before and we just happened to become teammates, able to build on a lot of things. If you're willing to sacrifice for the greater good, I think it starts at the top and he's been able to do that, I've been able to do that and we've coexisted well and will continue to only get better going forward.
Is there an aspect of your game that you've been focusing on this summer?
CJ McCollum: I think, more so, the development phase for me starts now with the way the season progressed. Obviously you're tightening things up, looking at how the NBA has changed, more three-pointers, more three-pointers off the dribble, being able to extend the range, obviously. The shot Dame hit was from 50 feet and I don't want to shoot that far because it's too far for me to shoot comfortably. But being able to do some of those things. As the game evolves, you need to be able to evolve with the game or you get lost in the shuffle. I shoot a lot of midrange shots and that's been great but understanding how good of a shooter I am and how I can get my shot off more creatively from behind the arc. And then understanding game flow. I was just FaceTiming my brother earlier and he's 31 now. He tells me about how, once you get closer to 30, things start to slow down, you start to really understand the game and figure out how to more efficiently get to certain spots on the court and how to manipulate a game. Some of the things we talk to (David Vanterpool) about while he was here was manipulating the game. That doesn't mean I've got to come shoot every play, try to be aggressive every play. Sometimes it's understanding how to call a certain set for somebody else because you've seen something in the first quarter.
How special is it to be here spending time with kids at your hoops camp?
CJ McCollum: It's a really cool feeling to see how happy the kids are, to take me back to my childhood when I was going to (Eric Snow's) camp back in Canton, Ohio. Just to see the impact you can have on the community as a normal guy who plays basketball, who's probably the same height as a lot of their dads, it's cool to be able to interact with them and hoop and give back.
We know Hassan Whiteside is excited to be playing with shooters like yourself...
CJ McCollum: We got shooters that can dribble!
How do you see Whiteside fitting in?
CJ McCollum: I think he's going to fit in well. He works hard. Obviously I've known him for some years, same agency, I've been to his house in Miami. We've talked over the course of the summer on how he can fit into our offense and how he can help defensively. It's going to be fun for him. It's a new environment, I think it's a fresh start for him, different type of leadership here, different type of chemistry and culture. He'll be good for us, really good for us.