On paper, all the elements were there for CJ McCollum on Saturday night. As the Portland Trail Blazers got set to take on the Atlanta Hawks, it was announced that Damain Lillard would not play due to rest for his knee (he’s also been battling soreness in his shooting hand).
The Hawks, one of the East’s worst teams, have the 26th defensive rating in the NBA. Meanwhile McCollum has had an up-and-down season, and perhaps was poised to take over the game with some retribution for how 2018-19 has gone for him so far.
Then, with just 38.9 seconds left, it happened. McCollum, who was clearly hunting his first-ever career triple-double, grabbed his 10th assist on a dish to a cutting Maurice Harkless as the game wound down.
It was the first for McCollum, but the second Blazers triple-double in as many weeks. Jusuf Nurkic grabbed a triple-double of his own — also his first — against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 16.
Portland plays the Utah Jazz on Jan. 30. No doubt Lillard will be back by then, but now McCollum has that feather in his cap forever.
And what will Harkless get as a reward for helping the hunting McCollum? “I got a nice surprise for him tomorrow,” said McCollum, who recently started his own wine label. “He doesn’t know about it yet, but he’s going to enjoy some wine on me.”