C.J. McCollum wears a smile as he practices free-throws wearing a boot on his left foot and sitting on a chair during the Trail Blazers practice in Tualatin.
But, it’s no secret that it isn’t the way he envisioned practicing with his teammates.
“It’s actually funny, I actually walked,” said McCollum when explaining what happened after the play he later found out he broke his foot on. “I walked to the shower, took a shower, walked to get the x-ray, got the x-ray. Then I just waited for the news.”
The news, which was announced by the Blazers on the afternoon of October 5th, was that McCollum had broken the fifth metatarsal in his left foot.
McCollum broke the same bone in January during his senior year at Lehigh. The break did not affect the integrity of the screw placed in his foot, he says.
However, he says is unsure whether he’s more vulnerable for another break.
C.J. came in to contribute right away as a back-up guard who could play both guard positions. He said he was ready to earn his stripes.
If he were to develop well, the hope would be that he and Damian Lillard could form a young, dynamic starting backcourt for the future. With McCollum still on his rookie deal and Lillard on his rookie deal for one more after this year, it would be cost-effective as well, which is important under the salary cap and harsh luxury tax penalties in the new collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s very disappointing,” he told the media on October 6th, the day the Trail Blazers played in Fan Fest.
He vowed to come back on that day and said he would draw on his past experience to be more mentally prepared.
Ten days after he spoke to the media about what he would do next, he underwent a non-operative ultrasound procedure to repair the broken bone in his foot.
The procedure, the Blazers said, is designed to promote bone growth. So, McCollum did not have to go under the knife.
Now McCollum says that he has no noticeable swelling and that he is doing some upper body workouts while getting his cardio activity done in the pool. While the team comes out to play the Sacramento Kings, McCollum is getting his weight room work in.
“Game days I usually lift when they are about to go out and take the court,” he said. “Then I come out at the end of the first half or start of the second.”
He says that he talks to his parents, his brother and is reading the bible.
“What can you do?,” he adds.
But C.J. isn’t letting it get to him too much.
“I don’t expect people to feel sorry for me. My life is still fine, I still live a good life every day.”
The doctor that did the procedure has a very high-profile client list including Derek Jeter, Hakeem Nicks and Golden State’s Stephen Curry.
“He’s the man, yeah,” he said of his doctor.
For now, McCollum can only wait and try to stay in the best shape that he can until he is reevaluated.
Although he’s hurt, McCollum still has to carry his Minnie Mouse backpack like all of the other rookies have to do.
McCollum, who carries two different right shoes in his Minne backpack, is at least embracing his situation from a style perspective.
“The only problem with the boot is that it wrinkles up my pants and jeans a little bit,” he said. “So, now I just don’t iron them or anything.”
McCollum, while in the boot, is taking his less-than desirable situation in stride.
While he travels with his teammates and can’t workout on the court with them, McCollum is “continuing to learn.”
He’s still able to laugh and he’s still able to be around the team.
But the biggest and most important lessons he can learn when it comes to earning his stripes in the league as a lottery pick can’t be learned on the practice court.
They are the ones that are learned under the lights against James Harden or Kyrie Irving, or Dwyane Wade.
The peak at a possible backcourt of the future for the Blazers is on hold for now.
McCollum speaks a truism that the Blazers and their fans have learned all too well in their recent history.
“You can never know what will happen in this game,” he said.