Portland Trail Blazers rookie guard CJ McCollum shined in his professional debut Friday night with the Idaho Stampede, the Trail Blazers’ NBA Development League affiliate team.
McCollum played 17 minutes and scored 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting to go along with six rebounds, six assists, two steals and three turnovers off the bench in a 109-104 loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
He did not play in the fourth quarter.
“I thought it went okay,” McCollum told CSNNW.com. “I felt good in terms of movement. There was no pain. It was good to run up and down the court and play in a real game. The great thing is no injuries. Obviously you want to get the win, but I felt like it was a good start and something to build on.”
When his number was called, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft entered the game in attack mode, showcasing his playmaking skills by utilizing the live dribble, something Portland lacks at the two-guard position.
“I tried to get 10 assists tonight,” McCollum said. “People always think because I scored in college that that’s all I can do. My best weapon is dribble penetration and I can set guys up. I think that’ll be my role once I get back into it because we got guys more than capable of knocking down shots.”
He had a couple of finishes at the basket and he knocked down his dribble pull-up midrange jumper comfortably and consistently.
McCollum, 22, has made tremendous progress since re-breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot during training camp. The non-operative ultrasound procedure he underwent in North Carolina swiftly got him back on the court in approximately two months.
It’s going to take time for McCollum to get back to the player he was prior to the fracture, but he’s well on his way and tonight proved that. Despite an impressive debut, the Lehigh University grad has some regrets.
“I wish I would had made a three,” he said after going 0-for-4 from deep. “I was blocked at the rim and I wanted to catch and shoot more because you have to do that playing for the Blazers. But overall I just want to continue to get better.”
McCollum will suit up for the Stampede tomorrow night against the Vipers again before returning to Portland for Monday’s practice. As CSNNW.com reported, barring any setbacks, the plan is to activate McCollum for the road game against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, Jan. 7.