TUALATIN, Ore. — In Friday’s practice, the Portland Trail Blazers were able to have all 15 players on the active roster participate.
That included rookie C.J. McCollum who had missed the first 34 games of the season until being activated for Portland’s Jan. 7 game against the Sacramento Kings.
McCollum didn’t make his debut against the Kings, but Thomas Robinson found himself on the court once again after losing his spot in the rotation on Jan. 21 to Meyers Leonard.
In the Blazers’ Jan. 8 win against the Orlando Magic, McCollum made his debut while Robinson helped ignite a comeback to help the Blazers avoid a dreaded three-game losing streak.
Robinson and McCollum have both worked hard to get back into the fold for the Blazers, both on different things.
Robinson has been focused on picking his spots better within the structure of Portland’s flow offense, which Robinson had a tendency to break from.
As Blazers coach Terry Stotts goes toward a more “situational” approach to his substitution decisions, Robinson and the rest of the Blazers reserves, have to stay ready.
Stotts liked the way that Robinson handled being benched the first time around.
“T-Rob did a great job of staying focused just in continuing to work,” Stotts said. He was here on off days. He’d work before and after practice. He’s very committed.”
Stotts feels as though few people can bring the type of energy that Robinson can bring off the bench.
What McCollum can bring off the bench is an ability to put the ball in the basket, says his coach.
Coming in the midseason to a team that is competing at the top of the Western Conference, McCollum was trying to blend into Portland’s offensive attack in his debut.
As the lottery pick from Lehigh continues to get his “legs back underneath” him, McCollum and Stotts want to see more aggressiveness out of him when he’s on the court.
“He’s a talented offensive player and he has to play to his strengths,” Stotts said.
“I was pretty passive coming off ball screens,” said McCollum after watching film of his first game. “I have to a better job of asserting myself and trying to get in the lane and make the big (man) make a decision so I can free up guys, get guys better shots.”
For McCollum and Robinson, two players who have had different seasons, their challenge proving they deserve minutes remains the same.