CJ McCollum has doubled down on the Portland Trail Blazers‘ expectations for this season, leveling a championship-or-bust mantra after an offseason of unprecedented player movement within the rest of the NBA.
McCollum, in an essay published by The Players’ Tribune, set NBA title expectations for the Blazers in a Western Conference he calls “ours for the taking.”
“Our goal is to win a championship,” McCollum says. “Not to build toward it, but to make it to the NBA Finals, and win the whole thing. We’ve put the work in. We know what it takes, and we know what we have.”
McCollum and the Blazers enter the season with an overhauled roster.
Three of their starters from the 2019 playoff run are gone, leaving McCollum and Damian Lillard as the two holdovers. The Blazers dealt forward Maurice Harkless as part of a four-team trade that brought center Hassan Whiteside to Portland. They also added wing Kent Bazemore via trade and signed veteran free agents Pau Gasol, Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver.
“I think that in past years, we might have been a little hesitant to say that we’re trying to win a championship,” McCollum wrote in the essay. “We’ve always had that mindset, but we’ve never been very vocal about it. I guess it’s because outside of Portland and in the media, people haven’t put us in that conversation. So it’s like … nobody had given us permission.
“Well, I can tell you right now that we don’t need permission.”
Despite being an underdog to beat Oklahoma City in the opening round of last season’s playoffs, Portland knocked off the Thunder in five games on Lillard’s series-winning 3-pointer. The Blazers then went on to beat the Nuggets, winning Game 7 in Denver, before being swept by the Golden State Warriors in the conference finals.
McCollum’s confidence is bolstered by a three-year, $100 million contract extension he agreed to in July, extending his current deal to five years and $157 million. The new deal will start with the 2021-22 season. The Blazers also signed Lillard to a four-year, $196 million extension this summer, keeping him under contract through the 2025 season.
“We have the right team, the right coach, the right mindset … and the right fans,” McCollum said. “We’ve got it all.
“Now all we need to do is finish the job.”
Information from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton was used in this report.