The Portland Trail Blazers finally got a bit of good news when they learned guard CJ McCollum will return to the team this weekend after recovering from a lung injury.
McCollum has been out since early December. He initially thought he had a rib contusion, but suffered breathing problems, which were quickly diagnosed as a collapsed lung.
Due to the lung and ribs injury, McCollum missed 17 games this season. In 24 starts, he averaged 20.4 points, 4.5 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game. He’s nearly a career 40% shooter from 3-point range and he knocked down 39.3% of his treys this season.
McCollum also became a first-time father the other day when his wife delivered a baby boy. He waited a couple of extra days to return to the Blazers so he could be with his wife.
“He’s doing great,” said head coach Chauncey Billups. “He’s probably not getting a lot of rest right now. But we’re expecting CJ to join us on the trip either next game or the game after. We’re just not sure yet.”
McCollum could return to the lineup as early as Saturday when the Trail Blazers visit the Washington Wizards. On Monday, the Trail Blazers play the slumping Orlando Magic, who are in the middle of a double-digit losing streak.
Without McCollum or Lillard, the Trail Blazers (16-25) sit in fourth place in the Northwest Division and slipped into the #11 seed in the Western Conference playoff seeding.
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Damian Lillard will miss at least six to eight weeks while he recovers from stomach surgery. Lillard tried to play through the pain of the nagging core injury, but finally opted for surgery. There’s also a chance that the Blazers shut down Lillard for the rest of the season, especially if they have no shot at a playoff berth or play-in tournament.
McCollum has been the subject of trade rumors since last summer. He grew up in the Philadelphia area and played his collegiate ball at Lehigh, so he has connections to the Philly area. The 76ers are trying to trade Ben Simmons, but are struggling to find a trade partner who’s willing to pony up an All-Star plus draft picks to acquire the disgruntled Simmons. Simmons has yet to play a game this season while citing mental health issues, which have kept him off the court.
When McCollum and Lillard were healthy, they made up one of the most dangerous backcourts in the NBA. Either player could explode for 40 points on any given night, and their counterpart would feed them the ball. Lillard and McCollum were simpatico and didn’t let egos get in the way of their on-court relationship. It’s the opposite of what happened in Washington with the Wizards’ dynamic duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Despite the high-scoring duo, the Blazers couldn’t maintain a healthy frontline for the past few seasons, which is why they could never advance to the NBA Finals. Lillard mentioned that he’d love to win an NBA championship, but he also desired to stay in Portland to end his career. The Blazers have a new general manager who could break up the team. All signs point toward keeping Lillard and trading McCollum.