CJ McCollum‘s much-improved play is one of the main reasons why the Blazers remain competitive in the Western Conference, something pretty much nobody expected after the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez last summer.
We interviewed your brother Errick last February after he scored 82 points in the Chinese League. How’s he doing in Turkey?
CJ McCollum: He’s doing great. He’s happy playing with Galatasaray and being one of the top scorers of the Eurocup.
Do you think anybody can beat Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game?
CJM: Oh man, I’m not sure… That’s tough. He should be an elite scorer, have a killer instinct and the ability to score in a variety of ways in order to score that many points. I’m not sure we’ll see that for a while but records are made to be broken, so maybe some day somebody will get close eventually.
While everyone considers pretty much impossible to beat Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point performance, some people think, well, in fact one of our contributors, David Nurse, thinks Stephen Curry will beat Kobe’s 81.
CJM: Yeah, I think he’s a candidate. He can score from a variety of ways, and he’s playing at an extremely high level right now. If there’s anyone in the current NBA that can do it, he’s one of the favorites.
LaMarcus Aldridge signed with the Spurs this summer and lots of people were like ‘Get ready for a terrible Blazers season’. Now you’re close to the last playoff spot in the West. You guys must feel great right now.
CJM: Yes, I think it’s interesting how we put this roster together. I think guys are competing hard each and every night. I feel we’ve played well so far, we just have to finish games. If we continue to get used to each other, continue to gain more chemistry together, we’ll be able to close out games and try to make that push for the playoff spot.
Right now, you’re in the the mix for Most Improved Player. Evan Fournier, Reggie Jackson, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond have made big improvements stats-wise, but you’ve made The Jump. I mean, in minutes, 20 more on the court and consistent big performances. What is the secret?
CJM: I think it’s just a combination like you said before – more minutes, more opportunities. A roster overturn that has allowed me to take more scoring load, have more freedom. And just a combination of preparation and opportunity.
You’ve almost shot as many free throws already as in the entire 2014-15 season… You were at 69 percent last year and 87 percent now. Has anything changed in your free-throw shooting routine?
CJM: I think it’s pretty much the same. I think just playing more minutes allows you to have more confidence during the game. I just developed a sense of a better routine that’s helped me a lot.
Condident enough to do that killer crossover on Dirk Nowitzki the other day.
CJM: Yeah, I’m definitely getting more comfortable each night. I think it’s fun being able to play the game you love for a living and I just want to continue to work hard.
The Warriors are on pace to hit 1,100 threes. How big is the three-point shooting for a team to succeed?
CJM: I think it’s crucial for guards, you have to be able to knock down the three-pointer. Whenever there’s a switch and you have a bigger defender, you have use the dribble, dribble penetration, be able to create space and separation for a shot.
The Blazers’ payroll is the lowest in the NBA. What do you think about the plan of the franchise?
CJM: I think we’re headed in the right direction. Management did a great job of orchestrating a roster with solid pieces and good chemistry. We are young and we’ll continue working hard for winning games.
Do you think you and Damian Lillard can become a dominant backcourt duo like the Splash Brothers [Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson] in the future?
CJM: I think we’ve got our ways to go to get there. Obviously we don’t have as much experience. If we continue to work hard and continue to get more comfortable with each other on the court, the sky’s the limit for us.
You have a Journalism degree and you’re a regular contributor in the media. You interviewed commissioner Adam Silver in June. Have you stayed in touch with him? What’s your take on the CBA negotiations and a possible lockout?
CJM: First of all, I take pride in my Journalism degree and I think it’s important that I utilize that and continue to take advantage of different opportunities that may present. I don’t know much about what’s going on with the CBA negotiations and the potential lockout, I just focus on this season and when that stuff comes I’ll deal with the situation.
HoopsHype readers voted Bill Simmons as the top TV personality. Who are your favorites?
CJM: I like Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, I think they’re doing a great job at TNT… I like Jalen Rose, Magic Johnson, Steve Smith, there’s a lot of different guys that are doing a great job on the media.