Trail Blazers balancing the emotions ahead of WCF, Dwyane Wade helping CJ McCollum balance it all

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Jamie Hudson is on site in the Bay Area as the Trail Blazers prepare for the Western Conference Finals
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Trail Blazers balancing the emotions ahead of WCF, Dwyane Wade helping CJ McCollum balance it all originally appeared on nbcsportsnorthwest.com

OAKLAND – On Sunday night in Denver, Damian Lillard walked, or some may say skipped, back to the Trail Blazers locker room after embracing his mother and sister on the court. The wave of emotions had hit him. The excitement and accomplishment had overcome him.

That Trail Blazers video of Lillard walking back to the locker room will be a memory Rip City fans never forget.  

The Blazers were in celebration mode following Sunday's 100-96 Game 7 win over Denver and rightfully so.

Now the celebration gives way to the business-like mentality that the Blazers have leaned on all postseason.

After the Trail Blazers rallied back from a 17-point second-quarter deficit to beat the Nuggets and make it to the Western Conference Finals, the team was riding high on Sunday.

A day to sleep on it, and Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are making sure to relish in the moment.

Perhaps more importantly, they want to also continue to be dialed in.

"Just looking back watching some of the highlights and seeing the game flow, being down 17 and all those things just kind of shows our character," McCollum said Monday afternoon at the Blazers media availability. "It shows we've been able to go through the season with things not always going well, going through injuries, obviously with [Trail Blazers owner] Mr. [Paul] Allen passing away… It's a lot of stuff that has happened this season, so it's only fitting that we win a Game 7 on the road and have to come back to do it."

It's fitting too that Lillard will be playing in his very first WCF of his seven-year NBA career and it will be the 47th and final year that the Warriors games are played in Oracle Arena. An arena Lillard grew up going to watch Warriors games as well as many state basketball tournaments.

"I think it's a storybook moment, just for it being the last year playing in Oakland, me growing up here. I had season tickets a few seasons to come watch the Warriors play. It's a special ending, hopefully it will end the right way for us," Lillard said.

The right way is to make it to the NBA Finals.

Don't think for one second that the Western Conference Finals was the Blazers end goal this season.

"To get here it feels like a great accomplishment, but it's not done," Lillard said. "We're not showing up here to just to say we got to the Western Conference Finals."

Portland will have had just one day to prepare for the back-to-back NBA Champions with Game 1 of the series tipping off on Tuesday night.

That means it's time to balance all the emotions that come with the Blazers franchise making the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000.

And it's time to balance those emotions real quick.

"You enjoyed it when it happens, celebrate with your teammates, your family and then you move forward. It's a new series now, a new challenge. We're looking forward to the opportunity of playing in the Conference Finals against a championship caliber team," McCollum said.

For McCollum, he has learned how to balance emotions and life in general from his friend and NBA champion Dwyane Wade.  

McCollum has been talking to Wade often especially this postseason.

"That's my guy," McCollum said.

McCollum mentioned how important role players have been and will continue to be in this upcoming series. He also noted that Wade has preached to him about role players playing a big part on championship caliber teams.

"I was talking to D-Wade last night about that and what it takes to win a championship. He was just telling me how the role players -- how important they're going to be going forward, each round as you advance they're going to be more important… You have to have a deep team with guys prepared to play," McCollum said.

McCollum and Wade have similar styles of play and it's apparent McCollum wants to learn as much as possible from the 3x NBA champ and 13x All-Star.

"When I have questions, I hit him [up]. I reach out to him. I told him I need to ask him as many questions as possible… You're talking about one of the greatest players to have ever played the game. I told him I wanted to be great consistently and I need to be able to talk to him to figure out how he was able to sustain it – not just basketball, but life, like off the court stuff," McCollum said.

"Balancing everything together. I think when you want to be successful at something you can't be afraid to ask questions. I've never been afraid to ask for help," McCollum added.

It will be a balancing act for the Trail Blazers in this Western Conference Finals. A balancing act on both ends of the court for the starters and the bench players.

"To reach where we've reached so far, it's not going to be one or two or three guys, that can get it done. It takes the entire team… There's a reason why we are in the Western Conference Finals and it's not just because of a few guys, it's because of what we've been able to get from so many guys stepping up," Lillard said.