Get an exclusive look into the lives of the newest NBA players to hit the courts this season. Follow the NBA’s top rookies – Tim Hardaway, Jr. (New York Knicks), Cody Zeller (Charlotte Bobcats), C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers), Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia 76ers) and Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Cavaliers) – through the 2013-14 season as they make the leap to playing on basketball’s biggest stage.
Name: C.J. McCollum
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Height/Weight: 6’3/181 lbs
My story really starts on Draft Day. It was amazing. One of the best nights of my life. It was definitely a long night between the media events and various obligations that players have. But being invited to the draft, talking to different guys in the green room, bonding with them, it was just fun. I had never been to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn before. A lot of my friends and family where there.
I remember Anthony (Bennett) going first. It was just crazy. He went first and then Cody (Zeller) went No. 4 and Alex (Len) after that. It felt like people were going right and left. I remember looking at my agent. Detroit went with the ninth pick and I was just looking at him. Then he something like, “Make sure your suit looks nice,” and I knew something was coming. Right after Detroit picked Trey Burke at No. 9 I got a text message from Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard. It said, ‘Ut oh.” That’s when I knew for sure. I already knew that if I was there at No. 10 that I had a good shot at Portland picking me. It was just a really good fit.
You always picture what draft night is going to be like, how you’ll feel when they call your name and who you’ll hug first. But it was different. It was surreal – like an outer body experience. I couldn’t tell you who I hugged first. I was just thinking don’t trip and fall. That’s one of the things I definitely thought about.
Everything after that happened pretty quickly and after staying a night in New York I was on my way to Portland. The biggest adjustment is trying to find your way around a new city. You don’t’ know where the practice facility is at first. You still have to find a place to live and where the grocery store is. You’ve got to figure out your schedule and since you’re a rookie you have to be there early and you stay late because you want have to get shots up.
Fortunately I’ve found a barber and an apartment with a Whole Foods down the street. Now I just have to get back on the court.
I got hurt on October 3. It was a Saturday. We were going through a normal practice, working on ball screen coverage. I came off a screen and stepped on Wesley Matthews’ foot. I was trying not to fall out of bounds so I kind of hopped and stepped on his foot again. That’s when I went down. It didn’t feel like it did the first time I fractured my foot playing at Lehigh University. I just limped off and said I was good. I thought I’d get some ice and be ok. We would get it checked out as a precaution. I even walked to the car before we drove to get an X-ray. The x-ray revealed that I fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in my left foot.
What would you think if you fractured your foot for the second time going into your rookie season? It was a tough situation. You try to put yourself in a position to be successful and you do a lot of things the right way and try to take care of your body. Then you have a situation like this and you have these negative thoughts. Why did this have to happy to me? All that stuff. Then you try to figure out – having gone through it before – what the next steps get healthy. You just go from this place of feeling sorry for yourself to getting over it. I got over it pretty quickly. I’m not trying to put myself in a bad situation.
I told myself God wouldn’t put me in this situation if I wasn’t capable of overcoming it. It’s just about trusting that everything will work out. I mean, I’ve been through worse things in my life than a fractured foot so this just means nothing. I’m in a position now where my life is not bad at all. I tell myself all the time that my life could be a lot worse than having a fractured foot and being in the NBA. So I look on the bright side. I have to look at how fortunate I am.
as told to Christopher Hunt
MORE FROM THE NBA ROOKIE BLOG: