Earlier this week, CJ McCollum released his third season episode of the pull up, where he shared his first thoughts on the Portland Trail Blazers’ 2021-22 season.
At the time of his release, the Blazers were riding a three-game winning streak that jumped to four and has since been snapped by the Sacramento Kings. Still, it provides an intimate insight into McCollum’s thoughts on this year’s team, his growing relationship with Chauncey Billups and what he envisions for the future.
From a forward-looking perspective, McCollum’s view of an improved team going forward was remarkable. Here’s something to ponder: Per Tankathon, the Blazers are tied for easiest strength on the schedule over their first 62. That was McCollum’s assessment during the quarter of the season.
“I think the interesting part of the situation we’re in is there’s a lot of teams competing, there’s a lot of teams that feel like they have a chance not just to make the Playoffs, but also to be successful in the Playoffs.. I think it’s good for sports and basketball.
I still think it takes more than 20 games to get an idea of what to expect from certain teams. It’s important that you wait at least 20, 25 games because then you’ve done more road trips, you’ve been able to see teams play at home, you’ve been able to see teams go to the Eastern Conference , the Western Conference and play games, and get a good idea of how they are doing and if their schedule is just indicative of their record.
McCollum is specific on the Blazers schedule the the toughest in November with back-to-backs, five-for-sevens and excessive travel, which NBA.com’s John Schuhmann hit after the schedule was released.
In the meantime, he also explained some of the improvements he has seen in the squad compared to last season.
“I know a lot of the guys on our team were able to get specific training and skill work and skill development while implementing some of our games on offense or defense and going over patterns and slides. Where does the help come from? What type of pick-and-roll cover should we use? What do we do with side bead screens? What do we do with the gun action, which is when they kind of go past and cut and put a screen. How should we spin? These are things that we were able to work on, which allowed us to be a little sharper, a little more efficient and a better start. »
McCollum talks about some of the reasons the Blazers are better off at home, some of which are self-explanatory: being able to sleep in their own beds, having home-cooked meals, and more. Given all of McCollum’s work, particularly over the past seven seasons, his struggles on the 2021-22 road might just be a matter of variance, albeit pronounced on the scoresheet. statistics.
Homepage: 10 games | 22.3 PPG | 4.1 RPGs | 3.9 APG | 47-44-69% | +15.3 +/- | 9-1 recording
Road: 10 games | 18.4 GPP | 4.6 RPGs | 4.8 APG | 38-35-70% | -16.1 +/- | 1-9 sheet
That in itself offers a lot to unpack. The +15.3 and -16.1 plus-minus marks are particularly intriguing. It would appear to sacrifice efficiency for intangibles down the road, though for a perennial 20-point scorer there’s probably more to it than meets the eye. As he mentions, Portland didn’t have much time to practice, got “bogged down” after transitioning from the long-standing system of Terry Stotts and surrogate models, etc.
About Billups, McCollum had this to say, regarding their budding relationship:
“I spent a lot of time with him asking him questions, talking about the game, finding ways to improve, telling him what kinds of games we should be running, what we like, what we don’t like. He’s a guy who admits when he’s wrong and admits when he’s right He’s not afraid of responsibility, not only to hold you accountable, but to take responsibility when things go wrong well, and that’s something he can improve on. I think that’s what you respect and love about him as a man. He’s a man of his word, and he said some things during the pre-season and early this season, and you were able to hold him accountable for those things, and he was able to hold us accountable for the things he wants us to accomplish.
I think one of the things about him is that he will do whatever it takes to win. In terms of substitution patterns, in terms of play calls, he doesn’t care. He just wants to win. He wants to get the best out of us, and I think from a respect standpoint, you respect that about him.”
Based on McCollum’s thinking, Billups has proven to be a player-friendly coach. As he noted, Billups gives players a calendar a month in advance, so players can assess bye weeks in advance.
This podcast took place earlier in the week, so it discusses the situation of LeBron James, Isaiah Stewart and the dismissal of Luke Walton, among other Blazer-related topics. The link can be found here.