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McCollum will be the Blazers lone representative at NBA All-Star Weekend — after Lillard was not selected as a reserve last week — and the honor is well-deserved. He was already planning on being in Toronto for Player’s Union meetings and to do some media work, but this will be the first time McCollum is participating in All-Star weekend. “That young man has to be in the running for most improved (player award),” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “To come from where he comes from. Again, he was a born scorer. He was a big time scorer in college, but kind of just finding his way here. Coach Stotts and his staff have done a great job of bringing him along and developing him. Where he is now is unbelievable.”
The luxury of the Blazers’ January schedule was that it featured the longest home stand of the season, a 17-day, seven-game stretch that allowed up to 10 days of practice. Stotts and his staff spent the majority of that time working on recalibrating their defense. They started with 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills centered around defensive fundamentals, then built up to 5-on-5 scrimmaging. Part of the goal was to stimulate active hands and aggressive play, to have a “greater presence defensively,” Stotts said. There wasn’t an explicit design to create more physical play, but that ended up materializing organically. “We really went at each other,” Allen Crabbe said. “Even in competition games of 2-on-2 or 3-on-3, we went hard. It reinforced that we needed to be more aggressive.”