CJ McCollum has taken on a new challenge as one of the pillars of the Portland Trail Blazers’ future, hoping to not only take on responsibilities as one of the leading scorers of this team, but also one of the leaders. The 27-year-old will take on similar responsibilities as backcourt mate Damian Lillard, hoping to not only lead by example but also encourage those around him.
“It’s something we have talked about,” Lillard said, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. “I’ve mentioned it to him, coach has mentioned it to him, that a leadership role is the next step for him. And he has taken the challenge.”
Second-year center Zach Collins has also noticed the change, now getting more pointers than usual from the high-scoring shooting guard.
“CJ took it upon himself to let us know that right now matters,” Collins said. “These two weeks before training camp matters. And right now (at training camp), we are all comfortable playing together, and that’s because we took those last two weeks seriously. That all started with CJ.”
McCollum might just be taking the right strides to finally put himself among the best at his position, potentially warranting an All-Star mention for the first time.
“I don’t know, it’s hard to explain… it’s just a vibe,” said his teammate Evan Turner. “There’s certain stuff he is doing where it’s like, ‘OK bro, that’s what a perennial All-Star does.’ When things are going fast, you can tell. He doesn’t lose his pace, and that says a lot.”
The Blazers will have several tests this season with a re-bolstered Western Conference, as teams like the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and even the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors have upgraded throughout the summer, making it that much more pivotal for McCollum to step his game up in the locker room as much as he has done on the court.