CJ McCollum Discusses Blazers Trade Rumors amid Damian Lillard Reports

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 13, 2021

PORTLAND, OREGON - DECEMBER 02: CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers reacts during the first quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at Moda Center on December 02, 2021 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.  (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum is tuning out the speculation over his and Damian Lillard's futures with the team.

McCollum told the New York Times' Tania Ganguli he has "always focused on controlling the controllables":

"I can’t control any of the noise that comes with playing this game. I can say that as a basketball player you will be involved at some point in rumors regardless of the magnitude because you play a sport. The media kind of dictates the story line. Success and failure also plays a role."

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Dec. 7 the Blazers are potentially approaching a crossroads because Lillard wants to sign a two-year, $107 million extension. In addition, some of his representatives were "privately selling the idea of trading his veteran teammates with value and rebuilding around him -- on that extension," per Wojnarowski.

The report also described how Lillard was "thwarted on leverage plays," including a potential trade sending McCollum to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a package for Ben Simmons.

Addressing the story, McCollum told The Athletic's Jason Quick he didn't think Lillard was conspiring to get him out of Portland.

"If he wanted me to leave, I think he would say that,” he said. “He's not speaking on me behind closed doors because that’s not in his DNA. He's not built like that. He's solid, and I know his word is his bond."

Through no real fault of his own, McCollum is finding himself in an unenviable position.

The Blazers are 11th in the Western Conference at 11-16, and it becomes increasingly clear with each day the front office needs to shake things up to strengthen the supporting cast around Lillard.

To that end, McCollum is one of the most obvious trade assets on the roster. He's averaging 19.0 points per game and shooting 39.7 percent from three-point range for his career. The 30-year-old is a proven scorer, and his salary ($30.9 million) would help balance the money if Portland targeted a major star such as Simmons, who's on the books for $33.0 million this season.

McCollum is dealing with a collapsed lung at the moment, which will probably provide a temporary reprieve from any trade actually happening. But that's unlikely to put a stop to the ongoing rumors surrounding Lillard and him.