PORTLAND — CJ McCollum, polished and savvy beyond his 21 years, learned his first NBA lesson on Monday morning: Don’t speak on behalf of your coach, rook.
McCollum — the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft seated between the man who placed him high on the Portland Trail Blazers’ board late last year and the man who will mentor him — seemed to say the right things.
“Working hard and being consistent in practice not only on the offensive end but on the defensive end as well,” McCollum said.
Then, he continued.
“The coach to my left will tell you, he doesn’t really care too much about knocking down 3s if you’re giving up 3s and layups…”
To which Blazers head coach Terry Stotts jokingly interjected: “I like making 3s, though.”
The lighthearted moment during McCollum’s introductory press conference as the rookie Trail Blazer accentuated the elation at the Rose Garden Arena.
The Blazers continue to build up the 2013-14 roster with free-agent signings and trades.
Though the team did not discuss the acquisitions on Monday as the NBA remains in a moratorium period, the recent draft represented the first huge gain. And in McCollum, the Blazers landed their building block.
“It’s another exciting day for us this offseason, anytime you get an opportunity to draft a guy you targeted as early as December,” general manager Neil Olshey said in his opening remarks. “We’re really pleased with CJ, not just as a player but as a person. The type of character that he brings to our organization, he helps build our culture. From day one, he expressed interest in being here, which we really value. It doesn’t hurt that Damian (Lillard) and the rest of the guys on the roster were targeting him as well.”
McCollum, the 6-foot-3 combo guard, began his first official day as a Blazer with an early Monday morning workout with a team intern then a locker room photo shoot in his red and black No. 3 jersey. McCollum has worn the number since middle school and feared that he might have to drop some big bucks to keep it as a pro.
“I didn’t know if I was going to have to buy it out,” McCollum said.
However, McCollum can save his money because the Blazers have waived Sasha Pavlovic, the last owner of the No. 3.
With Pavlovic gone — as well as JJ Hickson, Jared Jeffries, Eric Maynor, Nolan Smith and possibly soon, another member of the underperforming 2012-13 bench, Luke Babbitt — the Blazers have revamped the roster with proven talent and experience.
According to confirmed reports, Portland has signed free agent guards Dorell Wright, 27, and Earl Watson, 34. Also through trades that cost the team nothing more than draft picks, the Blazers also acquired veteran center Robin Lopez, 25, and second-year player Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
While meeting with reporters, Stotts committed a false start in his speech — nearly praising Olshey for his offseason work before holding back due to moratorium rules.
However, Stotts seemed optimistic about the added depth, which starts with McCollum.
“Hopefully the bench is going to be shored up and so we’ll have some scoring off the bench,” Olshey said. “CJ will help with that but the most obvious area we need to improve is defensively and that comes from everybody, including rookies.”
The Blazers will hold a Summer League practice on Tuesday morning where McCollum as well as second-round draft pick Allen Crabbe from California will get on the court with current Blazer teammates for the first time.