After seeing his season end in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum set about starting his offseason. As he waited at the airport, the smooth scorer and playmaker — who averaged a career-high 23 points per game and led the NBA in free-throw percentage this season — decided to kill some time by chopping it up with his followers on social media.
Plane has been delayed 2.5 hours. I'm a loyal delta customer but damn… anyway. Mad free time. Ready for a Q n A let's get it?
— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) April 27, 2017
McCollum offered restaurant recommendations, cartoon recommendations, TV recommendations — like, lots of recs — and shared his plans for summer vacation, the things he feels he most needs to improve in his game, his take on what Saturdays are for and a ballpark estimate of how many times he’s watched “Air Bud.” The real eyebrow-raiser, though, came when one follower asked who McCollum would like to see the Blazers’ front office target this summer as they look to improve after a somewhat disappointing 2016-17 campaign:
After the Pacers fell in their own first-round sweep, at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, George brushed off questions about his future, telling reporters, “I ain’t even at that point, yet.” We’ve been traveling down the road to this point for quite a while, though — really, ever since the Pacers dismantled the team that went to two straight Eastern Conference Finals, attempted to change course and spent the better part of two years unsuccessfully searching for some new identity.
George publicly shared his frustration with Indiana spinning its wheels throughout this season — one that saw the Pacers “gauge the trade market” for George’s services before February’s trade deadline, with Indy seemingly stuck in mediocrity and facing an ever-ticking clock on their top gun.
The five-year, $91.6 million maximum-salaried contract extension that George signed in September of 2013 includes a player option for the 2018-19 season. That means that after the end of next season, George has the right to opt out of the final year of his deal, passing up the $20.7 million he’d earn for that year’s work in favor of pursuing a more lucrative long-term re-up, whether in Indiana or elsewhere … like, for example, his hometown of Los Angeles.
Maybe the Pacers really can build a title contender around George, as owner Herb Simon insists. Maybe the fact that Indiana capped its underwhelming season by bidding farewell to team president Larry Bird signals a renewed commitment to constructing a winner under the direction of former Blazers personnel boss Kevin Pritchard. Maybe Pacers brass can sell George on a new vision for the future that gets him energized about sticking around Indianapolis, whether or not he makes an All-NBA team and becomes eligible for the five-year, mega-maximum Designated Player Extension that could earn him an extra $90 million over his next deal.
If not, though — if the shake-up in Indy suggests the Pacers are more committed to a full-fledged rebuild — then a Blazers team that has a lights-out backcourt (McCollum and Damian Lillard), a bruising revelation of a center (Jusuf Nurkic), three first-round picks in the coming draft (none of which are in the lottery, alas) and a passel of pieces who could serve as trade ballast (forwards Al-Farouq Aminu, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless, big men Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis and Meyers Leonard) might find it worth a phone call to find out the cost of doing business at Bankers Life Fieldhouse these days.
After knocking off the Blazers in Round 1, Warriors star Kevin Durant told ESPN’s Chris Haynes he thought Portland was just “a few pieces from contending”:
“I think they want somebody on the wing that can take the pressure off those two guards [C.J. McCollum and Lillard], somebody that’s big for their position. But they’re right there, man. […] They have a future center in [Jusuf] Nurkic who took them over the top, but I think they need another ball handler on the wing to get them going. It’s going to be fun playing against these guys in the next few years.”
On one hand:
On the other, obviously, George would represent a quantum leap forward in that department for a Blazers team that could use a bit of balancing in its rotation. Whether Blazers general manager Neil Olshey’s interested, whether he’s able to put together an enticing enough deal to get Indiana interested, or whether Pritchard would even take the phone call all remain to be seen. If the bosses ever do get to the table, though, now we know they’d have C.J.’s blessing.
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