Lottery pick McCollum making most of quick stay in Idaho

The rookie from Lehigh had 13 points, six rebounds, six assists in pro debut.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comJanuary 4, 2014 

The Portland Trail Blazers sent CJ McCollum to Idaho to play two games with the Stampede while he recovers from a broken bone in his foot. "That allows me to simulate back-to-back, so I can get used to it and see how my foot reacts to it." The NBA lottery pick said after the game he was pleased with how his foot responded. "It feels good," he said. "It felt good to get out there and get some running in."

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

— The Idaho Stampede wouldn’t mind if CJ McCollum stuck around for a while.

But that’s not in the plans.

The 22-year-old guard made an immediate impact for the Stampede on Friday night. He had 13 points, six assists and six rebounds in 17 minutes as the Stampede lost 109-104 to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the top team in the NBA Development League.

“It was fun,” McCollum said. “Obviously, you want to get the win. But at the same time, I have something nice to kind of build on.’’

McCollum will play one more game for Idaho on Saturday night — also against Rio Grande Valley in CenturyLink Arena. Then he’ll hop on a plane Sunday and return to his permanent job with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The 10th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft played his first game since breaking a bone in his foot at the end of training camp. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

“I went through summer league (with the Blazers), I went through training camp and then I got hurt the day before our first preseason game,” said McCollum, who played four seasons at Lehigh, where he was a two-time Patriot League player of the year.

McCollum returned to practicing with Portland a few weeks ago. The Blazers sent McCollum to Idaho on Wednesday.

“It’s an ideal situation for recovering from an injury,” McCollum said. “Besides summer league, I haven’t played a game since Jan. 5 of 2013. So, it’s been awhile. It’s great for me to kind of get my feet underneath me and get some game experience.”

Idaho is in its second season as a single affiliate of Portland, and the relationship is starting to pay off for both sides.

“Everything we’re doing offensively, defensively and the terminology, it’s a mirror of what Portland is doing,” Idaho coach Mike Peck said. “It makes it so much easier.”

McCollum looked comfortable on the court, showing off his smooth shooting stroke and dishing off a number of assists to Pierre Jackson, who finished with a game-high 40 points. McCollum’s minutes were limited, and he came off the bench — simulating what his role could be with Portland.

“It was my first time coming off the bench in like six years,” McCollum said.

Portland Assistant General Manager Bill Branch attended the game.

“He probably looked as well as he could have,” Branch said. “I like the way he played. … I was proud of his ability to create passes.”

And McCollum understands his role during his short stint in Idaho.

“I know they’ve got good players in place,” he said. “I’m just trying to do my job and get in shape and try to get my timing back.”

Portland coach Terry Stotts fended off questions this week about McCollum’s potential role with the team, saying he would address that when McCollum is activated.

Some members of the Portland media questioned whether McCollum should be inserted in the Blazers’ rotation. The logic: Why mess with success? Portland owns the top record in the NBA (26-7).

“I definitely feel like I can contribute,” McCollum said. “It’s a long season, and … you have to understand, the more depth you have, the better. The San Antonio Spurs, the Miami Heat, you never hear them complain about having too much depth.

“It’s not like I’m trying to take over the team. I’m trying to fill a role and help out.”

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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