McCollum Discusses Postponement, Staying In Touch And Avoiding H-O-R-S-E

by Casey Holdahl
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Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum participated in an interview with local media via Zoom to discuss a host of topics pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the NBA season, which is currently postponed. McCollum discusses his thoughts about the postponement, what he's hearing as the team's NBAPA representative, trying to stay in shape, finishing out the 2019-20 season versus starting the 2020-21 season on time, the significant donations he recently made, keeping in tough with teammates, the prospect of playing games without fans, whether he's interested in participating in a H-O-R-S-E competition and getting a puppy.

How are you and how is your puppy Fiona?

CJ McCollum: She is good. She tries to run from me, but she's doing well. We just went on a walk, went on a nature walk, I didn't wipe her paws off so the couch is ruined. But she's doing well. We officially adopted her, so I can't take her back now... She peed on the carpet again today.

Four weeks into the NBA season being postponed, where is your mind at in terms of how you see this moving forward? Do you have any thoughts about how you'd like to see the season proceed?

CJ McCollum: I think we're heading in the right direction as a society. People are trying to social distance themselves, staying in the house, I think that's important, first and foremost. But in terms of the season starting back up, I have about as much information as you, maybe a little bit more. I think there's a lot to still be determined, obviously, based on what most of the government is saying, from no large gatherings of over 10 people. I think we have to kind of get around some of those hurdles and really just wait it out. I think the biggest thing, as I've said before, is safety, making sure everyone is safe. Obviously you want to play, I want to get back out there and play, in front of fans preferably, but I don't think we're in a position where we can execute that right now honestly. So we have to kind of wait and see how things go and I think Adam (Silver) has said before that he won't make any decisions and doesn't think he'll be able to make any decisions until, at a minimum, the beginning of May.

Let's say the NBA resumed this summer. What do you think a timetable would be for getting cleared to go back to practice facilities and actually getting back to working out again? What would that look like to get back to playing games?

CJ McCollum: I think the first thing we would have to do is get in shape, game shape. Obviously we're all trying to workout, we're trying to do what we can at home. Some people are going on runs, maybe riding bikes -- I have a stationary bike, Elise has a Peleton and I'm using the Keiser. But it's not the same as physically getting up and down and playing on a basketball court. So I think we'd have to take some time to kind of go through that process, that period of one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, five-on-five getting up down full court. That would be very helpful. And then obviously, transition that to scrimmages and games. But I think it would take us some time, to say the least, especially depending on when we would end up starting. This is like Day 28, so that's 28 days for most guys that haven't shot a basketball, most guys haven't been on a court in general unless you have one or going outside, which is still not the same as playing an actual game or an actual practice.

Have you been able to do anything in terms of shooting a basketball? With no home gym, how are you staying in basketball shape or is that even possible?

CJ McCollum: I'm close. I told Todd (Forcier) the other day "I'll stay close. I'm like a week away." I'll stay around a week away because I know if we were to come back we wouldn't be able to play a game for at least a few weeks, is my guess. I'm trying to stay as close as possible, but it's hard. It's hard to train in a way that's effective when you don't have all the resources. I'm not complaining about it, this is the situation that I'm in, I'm cool with it, but to actually be able to shoot would be great. I thought about buying a court, I'm actually thinking about going to Meyers' (Leonard) house. Meyers has a court and they said I could use their little basketball court, so I'll be able to get some shots up. But even if you go buy a court or whatever the case may be, it's not the same as the normal workouts you'd go through, the normal stuff that I would be doing to prepare for the season and for games. I haven't shot a basketball in at least two weeks... It's the other stuff -- your rhythm, your timing, all that stuff -- kind of shifts when you don't play for a while.

You recently made significant donations to the Boys and Girls Club of the Portland-Metro area and the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank. Why and why did you select those organizations?

CJ McCollum: Well why is because I'm in a position where I can help. I think it's important that when you're in a position to do things within your means, you try to do them. Why them, I'm from Canton, Ohio. Canton has meant a lot to me. Being born there, having family still there, understanding the importance of food and understanding the importance of a time like this. I have family that have been laid off, I got family that are struggling right now trying to figure things out. I can only imagine how many people across the world are going through this same thing of either being laid off, not having checks, trying to figure out where the next meal is going to come from. The fact that there's 40 to 50 percent of kids on free or reduced lunch, so that's also a factor in my decision to really focus on the food aspect of it, especially in Canton, Ohio. And then obviously the ties here in Oregon are important to me, the Boys and Girls Club more specifically, has been a part of my life forever. A big, big portion of my giving and thought process is that kids are home now but they still can use virtual counseling. People that are working at the Boys and Girls Club are in a position where their salaries and way of life has been compromised, so just trying to help out any way that I can, but really putting the point of emphasis on kids and people who are struggling right now to kind of figure out what to do next.

What do you think about pushing out the start of the 2020-21 season in order to finish out the 2019-20 season? Would you want to see this season get finished no matter what? Would you rather see next season start on time?

CJ McCollum: Honestly, I haven't thought about it. People have been asking me about it and I just kind of go with the flow, I'm a go with the flow type of guy. But I think, in an ideal world, the sooner we could get started, the better for summer sake, for draft sake, for the sake of so many different sports that are going through the same thing. That would be ideal but that's probably not going to happen. I think I would be okay with a delayed start to next season if that meant we would be able to finish this season. Obviously people are throwing around Christmas, people are throwing around different dates, but I think it's all circumstantial. No one really knows right now, I think people are just kind of guessing. So for me, I just kind of go with the flow. If we could get back to playing, that would be great, and if next season is delayed a little bit, then so be it.

You've probably seen that baseball is taking about bringing all the teams together to play in one location. That's been talked about for the NBA as well, do you think that's viable? Could bring all the teams to one location and keep everybody under quarantine?

CJ McCollum: That's a great question. I'm sure if there is a way to do it, they'll figure it out, I'm not sure there is a way. But based on what I'm hearing, MLB is looking at certain locations, certain cities. They could probably target cities that don't have a stay at home ordinance, I think there's like seven to 10 places left in the United States to where I don't think they have a stay at home order because they don't have a lot of cases being spread right now. But unless you do it -- you'd have to do it in Las Vegas and like shut down The Strip. I don't know how you could really find an area that's completely isolated from outsiders, and that's the problem that I think MLB and most sports are facing. If you quarantine the players individually, you have to make sure they have interactions with no one, right? In a sense, you don't know family, where they'd be traveling from, you're basically isolating them because they could be an asymptomatic carrier, which could kind of disturb things and throw off the balance of everything you're trying to accomplish. I don't know how you do it, personally. I think we have people smart enough that they could try to figure out a way and if there is a way, one of these major sports organizations are going to figure it out.

What are your thoughts on the prospect of playing games without fans?

CJ McCollum: I've been talking to my friends about this. It would be weird. I'm not going to lie to you, it would be awkward, feel like a practice. But as a competitor, you just go compete. I joked with the team before this even happened when it was being proposed and I was like "It'll be like some games I had a Lehigh over Christmas break when there's no one in the stands, everyone's home and it's just you, the media and the band." But in this case, it would be no one. It would be hard but as a competitor, you go do what you've got to do and once the fourth quarter comes, you're trying to win and I think you'd kind of be locked into the game so much that you'd forget.

How are you keeping in touch with your teammates?

CJ McCollum: I've been in contact with most of the guys, I'm actually missing a Zoom yoga session as we speak, so I'll have to get on next time. But we've been in contact. Obviously I talk to Dame pretty often, I still have to give him an update on things and what I've heard, have to give the rest of the guys updates. Every time I hear something or we have a discussion with the NBPA, I either put it in the group chat or we schedule a call and we kind of knock it out. I talk to Todd (Forcier) almost every day, he's sending workouts, making sure that we're doing what we're supposed to do. He's the one that's delivering the bikes to everyone and assembling the bikes and putting everything together. I've talked to Jess (Elis), I've talked to Neil (Olshey), I've talked to coaching staff, Terry and I talked last week. You just try to have those conversations. What you watching? What are you doing? How has it been going? Are you staying sane? Wha should I be watching? Kind of go from there. It's been fun, I'm going to try to utilize Zoom more so we can have some group conference calls and try to get grandma to figure that out as well.

In your conversations with the NBA Players Association, how much of a worry is there about your own safety as player?

CJ McCollum: I think that's one of the things that I've preached and we've preached is that safety first. We want to make sure that everyone is safe, first and foremost, not just in the NBA but around the world. If it's allowed by the government, if they give us the okay and they feel like it's safe for us to continue to play or resume play, then I think that's one thing. But I think we have all collectively agreed, and I think the NBA is on board as well -- Adam was the first one to kind of shut down a major sport in general. I think the other sports were considering still playing and we were kind of the frontrunners in that. I think everybody is on the same page, health comes first. Obviously a lot of money here is at stake but people's lives are more important than money and I think we've all come to that agreement that we want to make sure we're all being as safe as possible before we continue to move forward.

Are you optimistic that the season will resume? Have you mentally moved on assuming that it's not going to happen?

CJ McCollum: I haven't moved on yet. I'm still working out so I'm holding out hope that we're going to be able to come back at some point. Honestly, I have no idea, I think it's a coin flip. They're trying to figure it out, we're trying to figure it out, the government is trying to figure out what's going on. A lot of it is just education, figuring out the severity of everything, how it's continuing to evolve, when is the peak. Is the peak in two weeks? Is it not in two weeks? Is it going to come back in the fall? There's a lot that we just don't know. I'm continuing to put my head down and work as if we're returning here shortly. I think that's how you have to approach a situation like this. There's 24 hours in a day, plenty of time for me to still get some work in, work on other sectors and things I'm interested in. I'm holding out hope that we are going to return at some point, I don't know if that's true or not. I think that, as a player, you want to go out there and compete and you look forward to the chance to compete, especially since we're almost to the playoffs.

There have been reports that there's going to be a H-O-R-S-E competition featuring NBA and WNBA players. Are you participating and what do you think about the idea?

CJ McCollum: I haven't been in the loop on that one, I've only read about it. I don't have a basketball court though, and I'm not very good at H-O-R-S-E. If someone dunks or does something to well I'm automatically losing. If it's like a shooting contest -- I could arrange a setup where I could go get a court or something like that -- but I'm minimizing my pounding and the impact.

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