CJ McCollum, who has averaged 20-plus points per season every year since 2015-16, hopes to help guide the Pelicans deep into the playoffs in the rugged Western Conference.
With a partnership with Pampers, McCollum took time from his busy schedule to talk with HoopsHype about the different mindset with his teammates this upcoming season, his reaction to Terry Stotts stepping down, his relationship with Damian Lillard, and more.
CJ McCollum: That was definitely a shock to me. In the conversations I’ve had with Terry [Stotts], [he] was excited about the opportunity to coach again. He decided to work alongside Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and Dame getting traded there he was really, really excited. So it was a very interesting thing to see and I’m looking forward to learning more about why this happened. But I have not spoken to Terry since he decided to step down.
CJM: I think it’s about the little things. Our approach on a day-to-day basis: how we approach practice, how we approach games, shootarounds, walkthroughs. It’s about understanding that these little things are gonna allow us to be extremely successful as you continue to stack together good days. Taking care of your body, hydrating, and getting the proper sleep. Normally things you’re supposed to do on the road, all those things are gonna allow us to have success long-term, and I think we’re heading in the right direction for sure.
CJM: Absolutely. His approach, his maturity level. Everything seems to be higher. I think there’s a sense of urgency and in doing the right thing and having success this year, individually and collectively, for us all. We were not happy with the way last season ended, losing to the Thunder in the play-in game at home and we have our sights set on being able to get back to the playoffs and really competing and do something special for the city.
CM: I think for us it’s about our daily habits. Getting the right daily habits and position ourselves to be outside of the play-in game, in the playoffs, and be able to host playoff games. I think that’s the mentality, which means you got to be a high seed.
CM: Everybody looks good. The young guys seem to have gotten better. They seem to have improved in terms of preparation, in terms of execution in games, in terms of confidence and comfort. And I think the guys who are at the top of the roster have really worked on their games and improved and are playing with a real sense of urgency. So I would say top to bottom a lot of guys have definitely improved.
I’ve seen everybody all summer so I expected them to all get better. I expected Herb [Jones] to get better. I expected Jose [Alvarado], Trey [Murphy], Dice [Dyson Daniels]. They’ve all been in the gym all summer. So I’m not surprised with what I’m seeing because they’ve all been putting the work in.
CM: I haven’t. I think what’s done is done. I knew it was a good experience for him to compete at a high level on the international stage and learn, and to lose and come back hungry. But I haven’t talked to him about it. I think it’s water under the bridge. He’s looking forward to getting better. He’s looking forward to help and improve his game in making us a better team that can make a real run in the playoffs.
CM: The biggest challenge is just the commitment and time that it takes to be successful at this job. Calls, meetings, things of that nature, has been the biggest challenge and then just trying to figure out what’s best for the collective, while understanding that everybody’s not going to always be available and willing to voice their opinion.
CM: I think it’s premature because the CBA was just completed. It hasn’t really started to kick in some of the things that we’ve agreed upon until next year, so we need a body of work and some data to collect from it to really know how impactful it’s been.
CM: How to draw fouls, how to manipulate the defense in less space. Understanding some of their rules are different, the basketball is different, but I think we’ve been working out together my whole life. So he’s helped shape my work ethic, my approach, and the way I play far before he was a professional.
CM: I have. We talk consistently throughout the season. That’s a good friend of mine. I’m happy for him. Happy for the growth and development in his game. Things that he’s been able to accomplish, and looking forward to watching him play with Giannis.
We’re legit friends who work hard and both come from small schools. We’re close to our families. We’ll be friends for the rest of our lives. And I think the cool part about our journey is we actually genuinely like each other, which is rare in the sports world.
CM: I’m excited to be partnering with Pampers. I’m excited for the relationship because it’s authentic. As a father and the person who has a daughter on the way, it was important for me to really find an authentic relationship that could help improve my quality of life as well as my household. Pampers Swaddlers provides lots of protection, up to 100 percent protection against leaks and blowouts. And we’ve had some issues historically with Jacoby [McCollum’s son] pooping through his diaper and things of that nature. So it was just a way in which we can improve the quality of life for everybody.