CJ McCollum Getting Healthy at the Right Time
Update: According to Yahoo Sports, McCollum is expected to make his NBA debut on Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings following a weekend trip to the D-League.
On Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers announced that they had assigned rookie guard CJ McCollum to their NBA Development League affiliate. Usually when a player is sent to the “minor leagues,” it’s an indication that the player is struggling and needs to improve his game and confidence against lesser opponents.
But in the case of McCollum, this is good news. The former No. 10 pick in last June’s NBA draft fractured his left foot for the second time in training camp and has yet to play a single minute in the Association. The fact that he’s been cleared to play in five-on-five competitive basketball is a sign that he’s close to making his debut for the Blazers.
And his inevitable debut couldn’t come at a better time. For as much credit GM Neil Olshey received for the moves he made to improve the bench, so far, the reserves actually haven’t been that much better than last year’s atrociously and historically bad bunch.
According to hoopsstats.com, Portland’s bench is averaging just 23 PPG which is good for third worst in the NBA. Last year’s infamous squad averaged 18.5 PPG. Not that big of a difference. Adjusted per 48 minutes and the so-called improved bench is only averaging 3 points more (16.4) than last year’s team (13.4).
Of course the bench has to play in order to produce and coach Terry Stotts appears to have visions of last year ingrained in his brain. Portland is fourth in the league in total minutes logged by the starters and this has resulted in 79 percent of the team’s league-leading 108.2 PPG coming from the usual five. Imagine how many more points they would produce if they had a consistent scorer off the bench.
Mo Williams, who was expected to be that scorer in the second unit, is the only bench player averaging more than 20 minutes a contest and it drops off considerably after that (Joel Freeland; 14:50 MPG, Dorell Wright; 13:37 MPG).
Williams has struggled as of late resulting in his 3-point game dropping to 35 percent and his overall shooting dipping below 40 percent. For as streaky as he is thought to be, his career shooting numbers are actually pretty decent (38.5 from 3, 44 overall). He had a nice night against Charlotte (15 points, 10 assists, 6-9 shooting). That’s a start.
Wright has been even worse lately. After going 5-for-5 from 3-point range in a victory over Philadelphia on December 14, Wright is just 12-for-36 since. His unmemorable performance in Oklahoma City (8 minutes, 0 points, 0-2 shooting) had me saying, “can we see Allen Crabbe get some run.”
Long story short, McCollum getting in Portland’s rotation can’t come soon enough. Any question about whether he could after the team’s hot start have been erased in the last two weeks. Yes, the team scores a lot of points, but they need more from that second unit.
Former Blazer Andre Miller Suspended
Former Blazers point guard and fan-favorite Andre Miller was suspended two games by the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. The suspension comes a day after Miller was involved in a heated confrontation with Nugget’s head coach Brian Shaw during the first half of the team’s loss against the Philadelphia 76ers. At one point, Miller had to be restrained by his fellow teammates in full view of the fans.
Denver was in the midst of suffering their eighth-consecutive loss and Shaw was trying any combination of players to end the slide. Unfortunately Miller was not in consideration. The veteran point guard was no doubt irked at the fact that not only did his 239 consecutive games streak end, but it was also the first DNP-Coach’s Decision of Miller’s career.
This isn’t the first time Miller has gotten into it with a head coach. If Blazer fans recall, Miller had a similar shouting match with former coach Nate McMillan almost three years ago to the day. At least Miller had the courtesy of undermining McMillan in practice rather than during a game.
A former first round draft pick back in 1999, Miller should obviously know better at this point in his career. That being said, it still didn’t make sense for Shaw not to at least put him in the game. The Sixers were seemingly in control for most of the night, but the Nuggets were still in reach. Miller has been a savvy and underrated player wherever he’s been and he would have been effective against Philly’s young guards.
It’s been a frustrating year for Miller as he is averaging career-lows across the board. If Denver has no more use for him, perhaps Portland can hire him as an alley-oop consultant.