C.J. McCollum

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Trail Blazers: Zach Collins out four months after shoulder surgery

Leave a comment

The Trail Blazers took a big hit when Zach Collins dislocated his shoulder.

Now, we have a better idea just how large this setback will be.

Trail Blazers release:

Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins underwent successful surgery today to repair his left labrum, it was announced by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.

The injury occurred when Collins dislocated his left shoulder at the 2:01 mark of the third quarter in Portland’s game at Dallas on October 27.

Collins will begin a treatment and rehabilitation process and will be re-evaluated in approximately four months.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Evan Ellis

Trying to build on last season’s run to the Western Conference finals, the Trail Blazers signed guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to big contract extensions last summer. This wasn’t the follow-up campaign Portland had in mind.

Portland is just 3-4, and the frontcourt in front of Lillard and McCollum has been a mess.

Anthony Tolliver has been starting for Collins at power forward. But Tolliver, 34, has shown major signs of decline the last two seasons. Overextending him for months only invites more problems.

Collins was also playing center behind Hassan Whiteside with Jusuf Nurkic sidelined an extended period. Third center Pau Gasol, 39, hasn’t been healthy all season. The Trail Blazers have been so desperate, they used Mario Hezonja as a nominal center.

Skal Labissiere must step up. The young big has raw tools. Portland has no choice but to lean on him through his ups and downs.

The Trail Blazers are short on small forwards. So, there aren’t many clear options to slide down. Rodney Hood at power forward? Don’t be surprised to see it. Portland lineups could get tiny.

Of course, the Trail Blazers could seek outside reinforcements. They’ve been frequently linked to the Cavaliers’ Kevin Love. The Thunder’s Danilo Gallinari is another logical possibility.

If Portland wants to meet its original goals for this season, a move might be necessary.

Sixers come from 21 down to beat Trail Blazers on Furkan Korkmaz three (VIDEO)

15 Comments

Anfernee Simons was going to be the story.

On a team with Damian Lillard — as clutch a shooter as there is in the NBA — and C.J. McCollum, it was Simmons who drained a corner three with 2.2 seconds left to put Portland up 128-126, helping them hold off a late comeback from the Sixers.

But then it was Furkan Korkmaz time.

Korkmaz won the game for the Sixers, who remain undefeated despite not having Joel Embiid for this game due to suspension. The Blazers are now 3-3 on the young season.

Portland led by as many as 21 in this game before the Sixers came back. Al Horford had 25 and Tobias Harris 23 for Philly.

Lillard led Portland with 33 points. Rodney Hood pitched in 25 for Portland before going down with an apparent leg injury that took him out of the game.

Ranking all 30 NBA teams by pressure entering this season

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
6 Comments

This story is part of our NBCSports.com’s 2019-20 NBA season preview coverage. Every day between now and when the season opens Oct. 22 we will have at least one story focused on the upcoming season and the biggest questions heading into it. In addition, there will be podcasts, video and more. Come back every day and get ready for a wide-open NBA season.

Pressure can be external. Pressure can be internal. Pressure can land on players, coaches, general managers and even owners.

Here’s how every team ranks by pressure faced next season:

1. Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony Davis will be a free agent next summer. LeBron James will be a year older. This is the time for the Lakers to capitalize on their championship promise. Consider the internal combustibility of the coaching staff and a massive fan base with high expectations, and pressure comes from every direction.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are good enough to win a title this season, and that always carries pressure. Adding to it: Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a super-max extension next offseason. If Milwaukee doesn’t impress him enough to stay, this contender could fall apart quickly. With a successful season, the Bucks can depend on Antetokounmpo for another half decade. The stakes are incredibly high.

3. Houston Rockets

The Rockets are openly acknowledging their situation: Their championship window is open but will close soon. Houston pushed further in for the present by trading lightly protected distant future first-rounders for Russell Westbrook. The Rockets better quickly optimize the remaining primes of James Harden and Westbrook – two stars who don’t simply mesh. Oh, and Mike D’Antoni’s lame-duck status could add stress on the whole team.

4. Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers remade their starting lineup after winning 51 games and pushing the eventual-champion Raptors to seven games in the second round. Philadelphia is not content with merely good accomplishments. The 76ers are going for great. And with young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, why not? Still, plenty of potential pitfalls loom – luxury tax, Embiid’s health, Al Horford‘s aging and Brett Brown’s job security. A strong season could go a long way toward fending off storms.

5. L.A. Clippers

The Clippers opened a two-year window by signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George. But pressure always comes with championship expectations, and no teams has better title odds than the Clippers.

6. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors open a new arena this year, and they’ve bragged about how much revenue it will produce. But will those dollars still come if Golden State falls too far from its dynastic status and fun style? With Kevin Durant gone, Klay Thompson injured and D'Angelo Russell causing fit concerns, expectations have dropped for next season. Still, the Warriors must maintain a certain level of entertainment (of which winning is the most important component) to appease their deep-pocketed fans.

7. Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers are only on the fringe of the championship discussion, but they’re still in it. After getting swept the previous two first rounds, Portland redeemed itself with a run to the Western Conference finals last season. Damian Lillard (four years, super max) and C.J. McCollum (three years, $100 million) were rewarded with large contract extensions. It’s important to maintain the good feelings.

8. Miami Heat

In the five years since LeBron James left, the Heat have made the playoffs only twice and won a series only once. So, they paid substantial costs to get Jimmy Butler. The only way to maintain a winning culture is to win, and Butler can help with that. But for how long? He’s on the wrong side of 30 and has heavy mileage. Still, if he helps enough, Miami could make a splash in 2021 free agency.

9. Orlando Magic

A middling Eastern Conference playoff team doesn’t generate national buzz. But the Magic were so proud of their last season – their best in seven years – they spent big to keep their core intact. That pays off only if the winning continues.

10. Utah Jazz

By trading for Mike Conley and signing Bojan Bogdanovic, the Jazz showed they’re serious about winning now. Those veterans could have a limited shelf life. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert offer a longer window, but again, there’s more pressure on good teams.

11. Boston Celtics

The Celtics’ championship hopes likely left with Kyrie Irving. But next season is a great opportunity to pin their problems on him. If young players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown suddenly get right back on track, that’d reflect poorly on Irving (perhaps somewhat unfairly). With Kemba Walker, Boston could be quite good – just probably with a lower ceiling.

12. Phoenix Suns

Few outsiders expect much from the Suns, but that’s rarely the case inside Phoenix. Owner Robert Sarver is notoriously impatient. The Suns messed around in the draft, but credible point guard Ricky Rubio fills a massive hole, and other veterans are also incoming. Expect Phoenix to improve. Enough to satisfy everyone there? Who knows?

13. Washington Wizards

The Wizards kept Bradley Beal despite a ton of outside trade interest. He sounds happy in Washington for now, but his 2021 unrestricted free agency is rapidly approaching. The Wizards appear headed toward a lousy season. Will they do enough to keep Beal happy? This year could define the next era of Washington basketball.

14. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are the best team this low on the list. But they’re so young, and their core is locked in. It’s always important for good teams to win, but next season is far from make-or-break for Denver.

15. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets’ window opens next year, when Kevin Durant returns from his Achilles injury. In the meantime, Brooklyn would like to celebrate its coup in free agency with improvement next season. That especially shines the spotlight on Kyrie Irving, who gets another crack at leading a young supporting cast. If he fails again, that could expose the Nets to real cultural concerns before they even get rolling.

16. Indiana Pacers

The Pacers got younger and probably slightly worse this summer. That’s an acceptable tradeoff, one that comes with reduced expectations for next season. However, if Indiana falls further than expected, that could create real problems for the people responsible for the disapointment.

17. Detroit Pistons

Ho hum. They’ll likely be mediocre – maybe good enough to make the playoffs, maybe not. Same as always. A looming potential shakeup adds some pressure.

18. Sacramento Kings

The Kings’ breakthrough season prompted them to fill holes with savvy veterans. The hope is everyone coalesces into a winner. But even if Sacramento regresses, most of those new contracts look reasonable. More importantly, the young core still provides long-term hope.

19. Dallas Mavericks

Dallas has its top tandem in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. But both are young, and Porzingis is just coming off injury. There will be patience. The deep Mavericks could play well enough for pressure to build throughout the season.

20. New York Knicks

After striking out in free agency this summer, the Knicks left themselves the ability to open major cap space in 2020 or 2021. For now, the roster is full of spare parts unlikely to win much. The large New York fan base won’t quietly accept yet another losing season. Knicks owner James Dolan, who has frequently shifted between plans, is the big wildcard in the franchise’s overall patience level.

21. Charlotte Hornets

They stink. Their future looks dim. Everyone knows this. Still, losing stresses everyone involved.

22. New Orleans Pelicans

After Anthony Davis’ trade request, the Pelicans got a new lease on life with No. 1 pick Zion Williamson. New lead executive David Griffin adds credibility, and he has already added significant talent around Williamson. If this year goes well, great. If not, that’d be disappointing, but New Orleans still has time to establish a winning identity.

23. Chicago Bulls

Maybe the Bulls are good now. Maybe they’ll be better later. Maybe neither. But there enough avenues for Chicago to show progress that this season doesn’t present much stress. The Bulls could make the playoffs, have their young players show progress and/or tank to add another blue-chipper. It’s unlikely they miss on all three.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

Near rock bottom, the Cavaliers just want to boost the value of a few key players. Cleveland’s top two young prospects – Collin Sexton and Darius Garland – are both point guards, and that could create complications. Kevin Love is on an expensive contract, and more injuries/aging could sink him as a trade chip. As far as winning, that’s barely a consideration.

25. San Antonio Spurs

The Tim Duncan era was so long and the handover to Kawhi Leonard so seamless, the Spurs still feel like they’re in the honeymoon of their five championships in 16 years (1999-2014). It’d be nice to break the consecutive-playoff-season record. But it’s just hard to get too worked up about this late-stage Gregg Popovich season that holds only modest expectations.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves

New team president Gersson Rosas inherited an inflexible, losing – but talented – team and did little with it. That means little expectation of a quick breakthrough, but a path toward overachieving exists. Well-liked Ryan Saunders getting his interim tag removed is just another reason to view this as a reset year.

27. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are in the thick of rebuilding. It’s too soon to expect much from Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.

28. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have such a deep young base – Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter, Cameron Reddish plus a couple extra future first-round picks. Atlanta can patiently let this group grow together without even moderate expectations yet.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City willingly entered rebuilding by trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook for a whole bunch of other teams’ picks. Though tanking themselves could help their long-term outlook, the Thunder can do whatever they want and let those picks roll in from the Clippers (including potentially lucrative ones originally belonging to the Heat) and Rockets. Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams even give Oklahoma City a chance to overachieve.

30. Toronto Raptors

Toronto can happily enjoy its championship – no matter what happens this season. Kawhi Leonard’s exit ended any expectations of a repeat. The Raptors should still be solid, but even if they’re not, that banner will hang forever.

C.J. McCollum suspects players withdrew from Team USA fearing losing World Cup

VCG/VCG via Getty Images
3 Comments

First, Anthony Davis withdrew. Then, James Harden withdrew. Then, several others withdrew.

All told, USA Basketball went through more than 50 players until settling on its star-deficient World Cup training-camp roster.

It’s not shocking so many players turned down Team USA in the first place, though I thought more would be eager to play in China. The World Cup typically draws less talent than the Olympics, the premier event for international basketball. The World Cup is now only a year before the Olympics, which would mean back-to-back summers for players who want to play in the 2020 Olympics. The World Cup is also close to the NBA season, when many teams will travel abroad for preseason games.

But those factors have been present all along. Why did so many players sign up then withdraw?

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, one of the players to do that, explained.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

McCollum:

Their decision didn’t affect me. I was thinking about me. I was thinking about the Portland Trail Blazers and my family.

I think other guys looked at it like, “Why would I want to go potentially be the face of what could be a losing roster?”

Or the workload part. If we all played, the workload is less. Twenty, 25 minutes. You’re getting blowouts, whatever. You’re moving on. A lot of guys don’t play, your minutes might go up. Your usage might go up.

Each player made his own decision for his own reasons. Sometimes, it’s the reason given publicly. Sometimes, it’s not.

But I’m glad McCollum gave voice to the suspicion I’ve held – that these dropouts have not been independently determined.

When top players withdraw, they put more pressure on the remaining top players. Then, the new top players make the same calculus – that the pressure is too great. Then, the new top players make the same calculus – that the pressure is too great. And so on.

I can’t confirm that’s what’s happening. But it looks like that’s what’s happening. McCollum’s assessment only adds evidence, though it’s possible he too is supposing.

The Americans are still favored in the World Cup. They have an unmatched depth of NBA talent. But this also resembles the Team USA rosters that have previously fallen short of gold. Don’t assume a U.S. victory.

For the Americans to win, they’ll need to lean heavily on their top players. On paper, that’s Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton and, if he’s healthy, Kyle Lowry. Maybe young players like Donovan Mitchell and De'Aaron Fox are ready to breakout.

Whoever it winds up being, those players must carry a heavy load on a team not assured of success.

Which is McCollum’s point.

Trail Blazers signing C.J. McCollum to three-year, $100 million extension

Getty Images
2 Comments

Last year, there were questions about whether the Trail Blazers should keep Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum together.

This year, Portland is investing heavily to keep both guards for the long haul.

The Trail Blazers signed Lillard to a super-max extension that projects to be worth $196 million over four years. Now, they’re giving McCollum an extension.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

That’s a lot to pay McCollum, who’ll turn 28 before next season, was already locked up for two more seasons and has never been an All-Star. He’s a good scorer with shot-creation ability all over the floor. That skill is highly important. But he has a limited all-around game, and his 6-foot-3 frame will make it difficult to expand his contributions.

Still, there’s value in securing good players. Portland is ensuring a star remains locked in beyond 2021.

McCollum will earn $27,556,959 and $29,354,152 the next two seasons. Then, his extension will kick in and run through his age-32 season.

For reference, McCollum’s max extension would have been $114,128,943 over three years. That mark might have served as a key reference point in contract negotiations. But it was difficult to see McCollum getting his max this far before free agency.

The Trail Blazers are coming off their deepest playoff run in nearly two decades. McCollum played a key role in advancing to the Western Conference finals. Portland clearly wants to maintain continuity after such a strong season.

But with Lillard and now McCollum, it came at a substantial cost.