After C.J. McCollum went down with a broken bone in his foot, fans of the Portland Trail Blazers dreaded another Greg Oden scenario. The rookie's recovery went smoothly, though, and he has now been cleared for three-on-three play. Does that mean anxious fans will finally see him dress up any time soon?
Well, let's say it this way. The Blazers are in no hurry.
Portland fans were excited to see McCollum, who finished tied for first with Victor Oladipo as Rookie of the Year candidate in a vote by fellow rookies, don a Trail Blazers jersey. During training camp, however, he broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot.
For those of you who, like I, are ignorant to the detailed anatomy of feet, I drew this schematic representation for a better understanding. C.J. McCollum broke the orange bone on the far left. (I am sure this is how doctors refer to it when no one is listening).
If you want to impress me, name the seven bones of the ossa tarsi in the comment section. If you really want to impress me, do it without using google (or other search engines).
The Trail Blazers didn't need to hold their breaths like they had to with Oden. For one thing, the injury wasn't that serious—for another, they didn't depend on McCollum to step in and save them. They already have Damian Lillard steering the ship.
It is doubtful the rookie could have taken away a lot of Wesley Matthews' minutes, who is having an excellent season so far, shooting 58.5 percent from inside the arc and 48.7 from downtown.
So he probably would have fought over minutes with Mo Williams.
However, on a roster with six (!) second-year players, a 10-year veteran like Williams is a very valuable asset. You can rely on Mo to do his thing and not be rattled by close scores or frantic crowds.
The record speaks for itself.
The Portland Trail Blazers are 19-4 and lead the Western Conference. Many experts predicted a season of mediocrity for the Blazers, and there was reason enough to believe they would struggle in a packed Western Conference. But the chemistry on the team, paired with the excellence of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, has fans and neutral basketball enthusiasts excited.
McCollum's return could destroy all that.
Don't get me wrong. I love the kid's potential. I also think he will be a big part of Portland's future. Not just the far future, even this season (and postseason—there, I said it). But when a team is hot, you don't want to meddle with it too much.
Imagine an engine that is already running smoothly. Yet, you want to tinker with it because it could possibly be even more powerful. If it works, you will have that satisfied smile on your face. If it doesn't, you will bang your face on the workbench for ruining it—and, in turn, ruin your face as well (or your workbench).
I doubt that C.J. would lead to any critical situation on the roster.
He won't expect to bring the ball up when Lillard is on the floor, nor will he anticipate to play a lot of minutes right away. He is a rookie, after all. However, the Trail Blazers might be out of sync every once in a while with him on the floor.
Sometimes, just being out of sync a bit can derail a great season and turn it mediocre. The Trail Blazers can't have that.
Now people talk about Aldridge's MVP candidacy.
When should C.J. McCollum return?
That means Portland is in no hurry. It doesn't need a quick fix by some wonderboy. The team can give the youngster all the time to test his foot in practice and, if need be, even for a couple of games in the D-League. In fact, some playing time there might do McCollum good to get his rhythm back.
Both mentally and physically.
This is something the Blazers' coaching staff will determine in the upcoming weeks. That is also the reason for the management not giving a timetable on his return.
I would be shocked not to see him play as a Blazer within the next few weeks if the foot holds up. But Portland is in no rush.
That's what winning does for you.