CJ McCollum on Damian Lillard amid Trade Rumors: 'I Know His Word Is His Bond'

Adam WellsDecember 7, 2021

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 23: CJ McCollum #3 and Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers talk during the game against the Denver Nuggets on November 23, 2021 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Amid recent reports that Damian Lillard wants to play with Ben Simmons, CJ McCollum's future with the Portland Trail Blazers has once again become a topic of conversation. 

Speaking to The Athletic's Jason Quick, McCollum believes Lillard's "word is his bond" and explained why he isn't listening to all of the ongoing speculation around the organization: 

"Me and Dame have a good relationship. I think when Dame speaks, you hear him. When you hear 'sources' and 'anonymous,' I don't necessarily know if that is Dame or not, because it's not Dame putting his name on it. He generally puts his name on things. I know where he stands with me, and he knows where I stand with him. The organization, they need to do what is best for themselves."

The Blazers are in a difficult spot as they try to contend with Lillard as their franchise player. 

Portland announced on Dec. 3 that general manager Neil Olshey was fired following an independent investigation into allegations he created a toxic work environment. 

On the court, the Trail Blazers don't look like any sort of contender. They are 10th in the Western Conference standings with an 11-14 record. They rank last in the NBA in defensive rating (113.5) and 24th in net rating (-2.6), per Basketball-Reference.com

Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on Monday that Lillard "wants significant changes to the roster," and he "would like to play" with Simmons. 

Before the start of the regular season, Portland was often mentioned as a potential trade destination for Simmons.

In September, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith reported on First Take (h/t Adam Hermann of NBC Sports Philadelphia) talks between the Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers involved McCollum, Robert Covington and multiple first-round draft picks. 

Charania (starts at 1:57 mark) reported on Oct. 8 that the 76ers asked the Blazers for three first-round draft picks and three pick swaps in a deal for Simmons. 

Any trade talks between Portland and Philadelphia involving Simmons will likely need to include either McCollum or Lillard to make the money work for both teams. 

McCollum is in the first season of a three-year, $100 million extension he originally signed in July 2019. The 30-year-old is making $30.9 million in 2021-22, per Spotrac

There has been no indication that Lillard wants to be dealt by the Blazers. 

McCollum has spent his nine-year career with Portland. He was selected No. 10 overall by the organization in the 2013 draft, one year after Lillard was taken at No. 6 overall. 

Portland has made the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons with Lillard and McCollum leading the charge. The franchise did reach the Western Conference Finals in 2019, but it has lost in the first round of the playoffs four times from 2017-21. 

McCollum has started 24 games for the Blazers so far this season. His scoring average of 20.6 points per game is on pace to be his worst since he became a full-time starter in 2015-16, but he's shooting 39.3 percent from three-point range.