CJ McCollum didn’t hide how much it meant it for he and his family to return to Moda Center for the first time wearing colors of the Portland Trail Blazers’ opponent. After the New Orleans Pelicans’ well-earned 117-107 win over his outwardly tanking former team, though, McCollum seemed just as relieved to be leaving Rip City as he was appreciative of an experience he’ll never forget.

“I’m glad it’s over,” he said. “I’m tired. Just emotionally and physically drained. I’m glad it’s over. I’m looking forward to getting to the next city and I’m emotionally drained,” he said. “I’m looking forward to get to the next city and trying to get some more wins.”

McCollum scored a game-high 25 points in his highly anticipated return to Portland, hitting six of his first seven shots. He cooled off after that red-hot start, noticeably winded once some palpable adrenaline wore off during his initial stint on the bench.

The typically energetic Blazers took advantage, leading 54-51 at intermission on the strength of nine made triples and 13-of-15 shooting at the free throw line. They regressed to the mean from deep in the second half, allowing the Pelicans to grab control of the game by early crunch time with hyper-efficient half-court offense despite persistent struggles from long distance. Portland’s sustained turnover woes ignited their transition game, too.

“I thought it was a well-played game for our guys,” Chauncey Billups said.

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As relatively impressive as the Blazers were, Wednesday’s game was never going to be about another hyper-efficient performance from Drew Eubanks, Brandon Williams’ first career double-double or even the team racking up a whopping 30 assists. It was McCollum’s night, a reality made evident from before the opening tip to the time he walked the tunnels to the locker room after a crucial New Orleans victory.

McCollum’s first standing ovation came during pregame action. He received a much longer one after an emotional tribute video during a break in the game, and it’s clear the Moda Center’s second-half “wave” was inspired by the festive nature of his presence.

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Case in point: Even Damian Lillard got up for the wave.

McCollum was clearly emotional at times, but after the game laughed off the suggestion he shed any tears. He and his loved ones had clearly been looking forward to Wednesday’s game, and it’s safe to say the adoring welcome lived up to their expectations.

“It’s hard to envision something like this. You never been through it, you don’t really know what it’s gonna look like,” he said. “But it was nice to be a part of it, it was nice to see everything, have my family here, have my people that I care about be able to see this. For the fans to show love like that, for them to care and cheer for me — an opposing player now at this point in my career — it just kinda shows you how much they care about me.”

The Pelicans are in the thick of a heated playoff race, though, and it has barely been six weeks since his family’s life in Northwest Oregon was upended at the trade deadline. He suffered a collapsed lung as a member of the Blazers not even four months ago.

McCollum hasn’t had much of a break from the most hectic season of his NBA career, basically. Its most important stretch is finally here. As special as Wednesday’s game will always be, it’s obvious McCollum is ready to move on from it — just like both sides were from his near-decade tenure with the Blazers.

“Just like physically drained, mentally drained. It’s a lot to go through,” he said. “You try to get up for the game, keep your routine, and then it’s just a lot going on that you can’t really explain. It takes a lot of your energy away. It’s an emotional part of the game, it’s an emotional part of your life. Like I said, I’m glad I was able to go through it, glad I was able to play tonight and help my team win. Looking forward to turning the page.”