CJ McCollum #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans walks off the court after the game against the San Antonio Spurs on April 13, 2022 at the Smoothie King Center.(Layne Murdoch Jr.)

CJ McCollum: Decision to sign contract extension dates back to February arrival in New Orleans

The current President of the NBA Players Association doesn’t believe in doing things haphazardly. He’s not big on improvising, or making stuff up as he goes. No, New Orleans guard CJ McCollum is the kind of person who prefers to map out what he’s planning and the exact direction in which he’s headed. That much seems crystal-clear.

When asked about his decision to officially sign a two-year contract extension with the Pelicans on Monday, McCollum noted that it was simply part of what he’d already envisioned, going back to February. When the now-31-year-old player worked with Portland’s front office to pinpoint a new location and franchise for him in a trade seven months ago, McCollum wasn’t just thinking about where he wanted to be during the latter portion of the 2021-22 season. He and his wife were planning well beyond that.

“I answered a lot of these questions when I first got here,” said McCollum, who was traded to the Pelicans by the Trail Blazers just prior to the All-Star break. “I didn’t get here by mistake. I didn’t get here by accident.

“(Coming to New Orleans) was a situation we talked about. What the present and future could look like. What (the Pelicans) had to offer. What I had to offer. Everything kind of aligned, the right way. My wife signed off. She was happy and excited, not just about the trade, but what could come after the trade, knowing that we could be here longer than two years (remaining on his contract at that point). Once we were all on the same page with that, the trade happened. The rest is kind of (history).”

CJ McCollum on contract extension | New Orleans Pelicans Media Day 2022

As the Lehigh (Pa.) University product has often reiterated since being part of the multi-player trade, his list of reasons for wanting to make the Crescent City a long-term home were numerous, starting with the young talent and potential New Orleans could offer. While McCollum has quickly developed an appreciation for the city in a relatively brief period of time, he indicated that the Pelicans’ roster was also a major selling point.

“I think the pieces here – respectfully, I love this place – but without the likes of some of the guys on this team, there wouldn’t (have been) as much interest, because (I) wouldn’t have been able to compete at the same level,” McCollum said before listing some of the team’s key players. “Having (Brandon Ingram), having (Zion Williamson), having (Jonas Valanciunas), Herb (Jones), Trey (Murphy), Te (Graham), we have a really good team. Drafting Dyson (Daniels). We have a guy (Willy Hernangomez) who wins MVP of EuroBasket. We have a lot of talent, a lot of young talent.”

McCollum also referenced other assets in New Orleans’ war chest.

“(We have) a lot of draft picks thanks to guys who are no longer here (on the roster),” he said, alluding to traded former Pelicans such as Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. “I felt like it was a good combination of a lot of things that made sense. I’m excited about the present and the future.”

With his contract extension signed, McCollum said he’s looking forward to getting to work on the court, as the Pelicans prepare for 2022-23, coming off a promising second half and postseason run this spring.

“This didn’t happen by mistake,” McCollum said of being a long-term part of the Pelicans. “I think it was well planned, well executed. We’re excited. There are a lot of things we need to work on together, chemistry-wise when we get on the court. All in all, our future’s bright and we have a chance to do a lot of special things once we come together.”