Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum wrote a Players' Tribune article released Wednesday that reflects on his love for the city and the team's fans and offers his take on how far the Blazers can go this year.
On the last note, McCollum called the Western Conference race "wide-open" while also saying an NBA Finals berth is "ours for the taking":
"All the talk this off-season has been about the Lakers and the Clippers. LeBron and A.D. Kawhi and Paul George. And that's O.K. Those are two teams that are going to be great this year, and if we want to get over the hump and get to the Finals, we'll have to go through them. The Rockets may have gotten better by adding Russ. The Warriors are still as dangerous as ever. And the Nuggets and Jazz aren't going anywhere.
"Yeah, the West is deep.
"But the way we see it ... it's also wide open. It's ours for the taking. I mean, if we start this season off the way we know we can, and then we get Nurk Fever back? There's no telling where this team can go."
McCollum wrote that the Blazers' goal is to win the title, citing head coach Terry Stotts, the team's personnel and the team's fans.
"I mean, this is a fan base that sells out the Coliseum downtown, where the old Blazers used to play, for Fan Fest. I'm talking 13,000 people filling that place to capacity ... for an intrasquad scrimmage," McCollum wrote.
"A fan base that, honestly, I think influences the way our front office runs our team. The kind of players we bring in. The way we play on the court. We have a work hard, play hard mentality—just like people in the (503)."
The 2018-19 Trail Blazers went 53-29, good enough for the West's No. 3 seed. They reached the Western Conference Finals after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets in the first two rounds.
Portland returns the All-Star backcourt of McCollum and Damian Lillard and features new faces in Kent Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside and Mario Hezonja, among others. The team awaits the comeback of center Jusuf Nurkic, who suffered compound fractures in his left leg during a March 25 game.