Posts Tagged ‘C.J. McCollum’

CJ sits down with the commish

A year ago, Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum was not only nervously waiting to be drafted into the NBA, but also prepping for the first big interview  of his career as a journalist with NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. Now with McCollum one season in and Silver as the new NBA Commissioner, the two sat down again, this time at Barclays Center in Brooklyn just hours prior to last month’s NBA Draft. Topics ranged from the expected — draft age, the state of the game — to the unexpected, such as secret societies and hip-hop. 

Adam Silver, CJ McCollum

Adam Silver, CJ McCollum

CJ McCollum: Describe your first year thus far as NBA Commissioner in one word.

Adam Silver: Eventful.  As you know, it hasn’t even been a full season. I would say in addition to being eventful, it’s been exhilarating. It has been fun, stressful at moments, but the good news is the league is in great shape.

One of the things I’ve learned is that there are so many people that care about the game that advice comes from everywhere and people are so willing to give their time and their wisdom to me, even in cases where they otherwise are competitors, whether it be [National Football League commissioner] Roger Goodell or [Major League Baseball commissioner] Bud Selig or [National Hockey League commissioner] Gary Bettman. There is a real fraternity out there of commissioners, which I didn’t realize. I think it must be a secret society.

Once I became NBA commissioner, they gave me the secret handshake, and everybody is all in it together. So, that’s been really positive.

CJ: You said there is help from the outsiders. Let’s talk a little bit about how former NBA Commissioner David Stern has helped you in making the transition to  being the commissioner.

AS: I worked directly for David for 22 years in five different jobs. So, being commissioner is my sixth job with the NBA.

I began at the NBA as David’s Special Assistant in August, 1992. So, a lot of it was through osmosis, just spending time and traveling with him, being around him and seeing how he handled various situations. So when the whole Clippers matter came up, he didn’t need to tell me what to do because I had worked under him for so long. I had been trained directly by him on how to respond to crisis situations.

CJ: Speaking of the Clippers situation … talk to me a little bit about what you went through the first 48 hours and how you went from hearing about the news to making the statement. What was that process?

AS: It was a whirlwind at the time the recording came out, and I was fortunate that I was traveling, because that allowed me to talk directly to a lot of players, coaches and owners. Certainly there were several other people, business partners of the NBA, friends, former commissioners, who I was able to talk to and all of whom were very forthcoming with their advice.

CJ: That’s interesting. I always wondered how crisis situations were handled, especially how it involves an owner/player situation. Let’s talk about the playoffs a little bit. As you said before, you got to see some of it live this year. It was very competitive. Touch on where you think the state of the game is right now? .

AS: The state of the game is excellent. I think we saw it through an incredibly engaging playoffs resulting in some of the best basketball I’ve seen in my career by the San Antonio Spurs. I think it gave a lot of teams and their fans hope that they could put together a championship team because what of we saw with the Spurs.

It wasn’t just about the aggregation of superstars — not that there’s anything wrong with that.  In the case of San Antonio, they had a different approach, one that was built through the Draft. You have a No. 1 overall pick in Tim Duncan, who is now 38 years old and playing at a remarkably high level; Kawhi Leonard, No. 15 overall, Tony Parker, No. 28 and Manu Ginobili, the last pick — 57th overall — of the second round.

Not to take anything away from the Miami Heat because it’s been an historic run: Four straight Finals appearances and two NBA championships.

On the court, the play has been terrific and off the court,  we’re seeing fans in all markets increasingly engage with their teams.  In certain cases, we are seeing the result of a new collective bargaining agreement and a new revenue sharing plan where teams in every market, if well managed, have the ability to compete for championships.

CJ: I was going to ask you about big markets versus small markets. Earlier in the season I  visited New York and you were talking about a small market like Portland and San Antonio versus an L.A. or New York. Do you think the league in five or 10 years will trend toward building a team the way the Spurs do opposed to a mega team up of superstar players?

AS: I support a player’s right to go where he wants and I think that is part of what free agency is.  It has been something bargained for by your union, and hopefully players are in the position to make decisions to play in cities they want to be in or to play with other players they want to be with.  I have also learned that players want to win and that they are going to be attracted to winning situations. I think that is regardless of market sizes.

Players have told me over the years they want to be in the smaller markets. If you are in a market  such as Portland and you are the only major league team in the city, there is a real ability and opportunity to impact everything that happens there and change the  entire culture.  It’s a lot more difficult  in a city where there are multiple major league teams and it’s just a much bigger market.

If you look at the conference finals from this  season, all four teams were in the bottom half of the league in terms of market size. A lot of people think of Miami now as a big market but they rank 17th  among the 30 teams by market size. Before LeBron went to Miami, I’d never heard players around the league saying, “I can’t wait until I’m a free agent so I can get to Miami.” You don’t hear that in the case of the NFL with the Dolphins, or frankly with Major League Baseball with the Marlins. It’s because he went there and created something special, and they are winning.

CJ: Chemistry is huge.

AS: Exactly.

CJ: So, we’re going to change the pace a little bit and talk about the Draft. Tell me a little bit about how you’re feeling about going out there for the first round for the first time. Are you expecting cheers? Boos? What is it going to be like to switch roles a little bit here?

Commissioner Silver greets No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins last month in Brooklyn.

Commissioner Silver greets No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins last month in Brooklyn. (Joe Murphy /NBAE)

AS: I’m excited. I’m not sure exactly what to expect. I realize it’s a little bit of a tradition, booing the commissioner. I’ll tell you a funny story from last year. I did my usual second-round selections, and afterwards, I came offstage and a few of my colleagues said to me, “What did it feel like to be booed?” I said “Oh, I didn’t realize I was booed. I thought they were cheering.”

CJ: I’m going to talk to Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum later on tonight. Any advice for him?

AS: My advice to Mark is to keep going. It’s probably the same thing that players do when they’re on the road and they hear fans booing. You just have to stay on your game. 

C.J.: Draft age. You see Andrew Wiggins, you see all these guys — 19, 20 years old. I’m a guy who took the four-year route.What’s your take on the Draft age, and do you think maybe it will be changed or will you guys kind of keep it the way it is?

AS: It’s not a simple issue.  There are very good arguments on both sides. I understand young men saying to me, “If I feel that I’m ready whether that’s coming out of high school or coming out after one year of college, I should have the right.”

There is a balance of factors that you need to look at. I think ultimately it is in the best interest of the league to raise the age minimum from 19 to 20. Of course that’s something that cannot be done unilaterally. That can only happen through a negotiation with the Players Association.

From an economic standpoint we pay 50 percent of revenue to the players.  That’s how the salary cap is determined. That’s how ultimately players’ salaries are determined.  Just so it’s clear, there’s no economic savings to us by raising the minimum age from age 19 to 20.We pay the 50 percent no matter what.

Ultimately, we believe we would have a better league if our teams were able to see these young men play one more year. They would be more equipped for the rigors of coming into the league both physically and mentally.  As you know, playing at this level is a tough transition., There are a lot of injuries and distractions coming from all directions as a player.  To me, there is a big difference in your life between 18 and 19, and between 19 and 20.  So my preference would be to raise the age.  It would need to be discussed with the Union and the NCAA needs to come to the table as well.

Recently, there’s been a lot more focus on student athletes at colleges and whether or not their scholarships are covering all of their needs.  Things like whether or not there should be supplemental payments to insure that they can have the appropriate meal plan and be able to get a laptop if they need one or if there is adequate insurance, especially for a career-ending injury in college.  So what I’d like to see is for college athletes to be covered and raise the minimum age.

C.J.: Some people are going to be happy and unhappy whatever you decide. Let’s talk a little bit about technology. I know the NBA is using technology, trying to reach other countries and globally trying to expand the game. What type of influence do you think technology is having in the NBA and where do you see it going?

AS: I can’t think of anything that’s had a greater influence than technology on the NBA, on the game itself.

First of all, the various replay triggers that we have put in place over the last several years has had a big, positive impact. Because of the high definition feeds and the increasing number of cameras that are covering the game and the clarity of those pictures, we are able to do a better job of officiating the game.

There needs to be a balance between getting the call right and additional stops in games.  This is a game of flow and momentum so we are very focused on that.

I think there is a very thorough replay system for us to do a better job officiating the games. One of the new additions we’re talking about for next year is a having a centralized replay room to assist the referees.  Those plays could be cued up faster with a group of officials sitting in a room. For example, when the crew chief goes to look at the replay at the courtside monitor, he would be assured that he’s looking at the right feed.

In terms of broadband internet technology, the world of blogs and apps has also had a significant impact on the game.  It makes it that much easier to follow the game. When I visit NBA.com, I can look up anything about your statistics, and I can run all kinds of different permutations through our stats section. We have these SportVu cameras in all the arenas now.  Probably your coaches have shown you some of that breakdown.  We have cameras in the rafters in all the arenas, and so we can track players on the court and I think it really helps the coaches do a better job diagramming plays, understanding defenses. There are so many ways that technology leads to a better league.

C.J.: You bring some interesting points. The TV one is something that sticks out to me because I like to watch it on a very large TV. Let’s talk a little bit about your favorite technology.  I think last year you may have said it was your laptop or something of that sort.  What’s your favorite technology?

AS: The official technology partner of the NBA is Samsung. Of course, there’s the Samsung Galaxy which is my favorite technology.

C.J.: I have to put that as my favorite, too. I picked up a Samsung today. What type of music do you listen to?

AS: I listen to a lot of old-school music.  I still buy through all these various music services.  A lot of music of the ’70s from when I was growing up.  But I have very eclectic music taste.  I’ll listen to classical occasionally.  I listen to a lot of R&B, you know sort of more associated with my childhood.  I listen to hip-hop music.  I’ve gotten to know some of the artists through my time at the league. I’m sort of more curious.

C.J.: Do you have a list of favorite rappers?

AS: I’ll begin with Jay-Z.  I’m a fan of Jay-Z.  I got to know him through his ownership of the Nets, and now of course as he’s representing players in the league. I’ve been to several of his concerts. I’ve become a big fan of his, and not just because of his music, but because of his impact on society.  I found him to be an amazing person.

C.J.: So would Jay-Z be the last concert you attended?

AS: I haven’t been to many concerts lately. I go to a lot of games. The last concert I attended was Jay-Z at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

C.J.: Did you body surf?

AS: For the record, I did not. And just to show I’m getting a little old, and Jay if you’re reading this … it was kind of loud.

C.J.: Yeah it’s loud for me, too!  You talked a little about the importance of apps and how you can use fantasy apps, there’s apps for weather.  You know, there are apps for anything and everything.  What’s your favorite app and which one do you use the most?

AS: You’re going to think I’m a shameless shill for the NBA, but my favorite app is NBA GameTime. It’s the app where you can not only get all the statistics about games, but you can get the live feed of our home and away broadcasts for every game, and the quality is just off the charts. It’s the way I watch probably the majority of games these days. And of course, for this summer, I’ll watch Summer League action — Orlando and Las Vegas — on the NBA Summer League Live app.

I’m also a big fan of  the New York Post app,  it’s terrific. Unlike most newspaper apps, the paper displays in tabloid form. It’s as if you’re turning the pages rather than looking at the way the articles are filed digitally.

CJ: You gave me great advice last year. You said take advantage of your opportunities.  I just want to thank you for that. I appreciate that. I have a radio show now largely in part to Excel and your team. You know, if you ever want my autograph, I’ll be happy to give it to you.

AS: All those years I spent working for David [Stern], for the first 20 I worked for him, everyone wanted his autograph. Toward the end of his commissionership, people wanted selfies. And now everyone has gone completely with selfies.

CJ: We’ll take a selfie before I leave. That is a great point. I can get the NBA to retweet, so I can get my followers up. It will be perfect. This upcoming Draft has a lot of very good players in it.  Would you have any advice for them? And my last question,  if you had the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft, who would you take?

AS: If I had the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft, I’d pick … I can’t tell you. I’m glad it’s not my decision to make. I get to read the names.

In terms of advice for the Draft guys, I hear this on the radio all the time — don’t text and drive. It’s one of the most dangerous things out there. Everybody knows, and hopefully you would never take a drink and drive. I think we all think we can multitask and there’s a temptation for all of us when we’re driving cars to just take a quick look at that text or that email. I think that’s something I want to make sure that these young men never do and for all of your listeners and followers as well.

For the young men entering the Draft, stay focused on your game.

Congratulations to you on the Sirius XM show, and all your continued work on the journalism front.  It’s great to see you taking advantage of these opportunities.

For these other young men, it’s important to focus on your health and nutrition and your sleep.  It’s a challenge because there are so many distractions.  You have to have the discipline to say that this is a job, playing in the NBA. I’m going to work at it, in essence, all the time, to maximize my potential. I’m thrilled to hear you’re working hard this summer.

CJ: I appreciate it. I appreciate the advice, and I’ll pass it along. Thank you for taking the time and we’ll get the selfie done.

McCollum: Fandom On Your Sleeve

By CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers, for NBA.com

It is nearly impossible to walk down the street in any town in the United States and not run into someone sporting the logo of a professional sports team. Hats, gloves, socks, shoelaces, jackets, shirts, shorts – you name it, you can probably get it with your favorite team logo. The NBA has one of the largest global merchandise businesses in sports, with products available in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Sal LaRocca

Sal LaRocca

I had an opportunity to sit down with Sal LaRocca, the then Executive Vice President of Global Merchandising at the NBA, who oversees the league’s global consumer products business. He has since been named President, Global Operations and Merchandising, adding the oversight of the operations of the league’s 13 international offices to his responsibilities.

LaRocca started his career at the NBA in 1990 (which he kindly pointed out was before I was born), and has brokered the league’s partnerships with adidas, Panini and Spalding, as well as developed the global video game and e-commerce business. Throughout his tenure, LaRocca has seen incredible change and growth in the league’s merchandising business.

“The retailers used to be small, independent brands focused only on filling their orders,” LaRocca said. “When global brands like Nike, adidas and Under Armour jumped in, the business became more sophisticated with retailers becoming their own stand-alone brands, with the NBA as only part of their overall image.”

The advent of the internet also provided access to the purchasing power of NBA fans around the world. In 1990, less than 2 percent of the overall business came from outside the U.S. Now, about 40-45 percent comes from outside. The business has continued to grow.

“Overall, the merchandising business is largely driven by big companies, social media and the internet, and it is done on a global basis,” LaRocca said.

With all that change and access to consumers, you can only imagine what that translates to in terms of revenue. Estimates are that sales total between $2 and 3 billion, but the revenue is significantly less than that. The league does not make any money from fan purchases at retailer locations, but rather from wholesale deals with licensees. Of that profit, any revenue from products with player images or numbers is split 50/50 with the Players Association.

In deciding what goes on shelves, it all comes down to location, location, location. There are certain products – jerseys and video games – that are popular around the world. Other products resonate only locally. For example, the NBA is considered more of a fashionable lifestyle brand in Korea, so the product there features clothes that are more street wear than fan statement, with logos and apparel in colors and styles you won’t find anywhere else. Can you imagine a Blazers jacket in pink and yellow instead of black and red?

It’s great that there are so many options for fans to show support for their teams. But let’s get down to where it really matters – the jerseys on the court. It seems like there is a new style, cut or color introduced on a regular basis. What’s it all about?

C.J. McCollum (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

C.J. McCollum (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

Fashion, marketing and performance technology.

From the fashion side, the different iterations of oncourt apparel are the league’s way of standing out in a very cluttered world of products. A lot of thought goes into figuring out how to push the fashion envelope to stay in front of trends and help integrate NBA merchandise into fans’ lives outside of the arenas.

“There is always an evolution, and as things change and trends evolve, it’s up to us to try new and different things,” LaRocca said.

Jerseys also play a pivotal role in marketing at both the league and team level. There are certain NBA-led initiatives, such as Noches éne•bé•a, that will feature special jerseys as one component of an overall marketing campaign. Among teams, LaRocca said jerseys are driven by what each organization wants to do in its particular market.

“Different jerseys give teams an opportunity to continue reinventing themselves to the local fan base and produce sales opportunities,” he said, “especially as things get more competitive in team markets with other professional leagues.”

When it comes to performance enhancement, the current trend is fabric that is light and dries more quickly. According to LaRocca, the goal is to put players in a position to perform at their best.

“When you decide what helps performance, it can’t make you faster, can’t make you jump higher, can’t make your arms three inches longer,” he said, “but if a uniform can stay light on your body and can dry quickly, and if you never notice that you have a uniform on, that probably is helpful. “

No change is without controversy, which the league is familiar with. There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions, including 450 players that have to wear the jerseys. LaRocca accepts that with so many opinions, you are never going to get 100 percent approval. The solution lies in clear communication and engaging players in product development.

“Our job is to generate revenue, and the more we generate, the more we share with players in the 50/50 split,” LaRocca said. “We aren’t trying to embarrass players or make them look unprofessional and compromise their performance.”

During February, players wore special Black History Month shooting shirts, which Miami Heat guard Ray Allen was very involved in designing.

“[Commissioner] Adam Silver has been very focused on getting players as involved as possible in overall business to educate them on what, how and why we do things,” LaRocca said. “We are trying to do what we can to raise awareness and revenue for everyone.”

I joked with LaRocca that I had some great ideas, and he extended a standing invitation to visit him at NBA headquarters to talk shop. So stay tuned for a limited edition CJ McCollum sock line!

In the end, it is amazing how NBA logos make their way around the world and into the wardrobe. Merchandise allows fans to connect with their favorite athletes and literally wear their passion on their sleeves.

Carmelo’s 62: Players React On Twitter

By Nick Margiasso IV

Carmelo Anthony may have scored 62 on Friday night — breaking his own, the Knicks’ franchise and the Madison Square Garden points records in the process — but he also did something else. He broke the Internet … especially Twitter.

As always, folks reacted with all kinds of hot-blooded hyperbole on The Big T (not a real nickname for Twitter, but it should be), not least of which were Anthony’s NBA co-workers. Here’s a roundup of their love for Lala‘s boy:

…and some Knicks perspective…

Rookie Diary: McCollum Goes One On One With NBA Executive Rod Thorn

Rod Thorn

NBA executive Rod Thorn was recently interviewed by Blazers rookie C.J. McCollum.

By C.J. McCollum, for NBA.com

Following his interview with incoming NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, getting the nod for his fashionable mix of checks and plaid, Blazers rookie guard C.J. McCollum sits down with newly appointed NBA President of Basketball Operations, Rod Thorn. In a behind-the-scenes look at NBA league headquarters, McCollum gets to the bottom of the new Finals format, talks about the early-in-the-career injury he shares with Michael Jordan, and gets advice for his future — always maintain the best conditioning, learn as much as you can about the game, and don’t forget about what goes on off the court.

C.J. McCollum: What is your day-to-day schedule like now, being in such a position in terms of controlling the fines?

Portland's C.J. McCollum has some lofty goals for his life after his NBA playing days are done.

Portland’s C.J. McCollum has some lofty goals for his life after his NBA playing days are done.

Rod Thorn: I get here anywhere from 8 to 8:30 (a.m.), and we have people that work here who have a series of reports that I go through when

I get in. Did we have any flagrant fouls last night? Did we have any technical fouls? Did we have any altercations, fights, anything of that nature? I’ll have a report on all of that. We want to make sure that we’re on top of everything so that’s the first thing I do when I come in. If there is an altercation anywhere, I will always get a phone call, no matter what time it is. If there is an altercation, you interview the players to see what they felt about it and you end up making whatever decision you end up making.

Normally we have anywhere from three to five meetings a day on a range of subjects. We’re also involved in international here, we have 18 people that I’m responsible for that work internationally so we get reports from them, talk to them, and see what’s going on in their lives.

I’m also in charge of the referees so we’ll have meetings regarding what’s going on with the referees, what are the trends, are the games getting too rough, are there certain calls we’re not doing a good job with. If there are any problems that we’re having along those lines, we’ll try to address them. So that’s a big part of this department, overseeing and running the referee operations.

Days go by pretty fast here, there’s basically something going on all the time.

CM: You’re putting in some serious hours there. You’ve been a player, coach, general manager, and at the league office. What are the differences you see working for a team versus working for the league?

RT: If you work for the league, you’re thinking about what’s best for the league and how you can grow the business. You’re thinking about a lot of things that may not be just happening today.  You don’t care who wins or loses, but you’re thinking about the good of the league. When you work for a team, I would compare it to being in a silo. You’re more concerned with what’s in the best interest of your team and your players, and you tend to live and die with every victory and every loss. You have more instant gratification, or sometimes it’s not gratifying, if you’re with a team that’s not winning, in that there’s feedback every day. Players are getting better, players aren’t getting better; we’re winning, we’re losing. It’s more short-term as far as that goes. The league is more long-term and you don’t care who wins and losses, with a team it’s a little more short-term, and you live and die with wins and losses.

CM: NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver is taking over soon, what do you think will change, and what has it been like transitioning in to this season? I see you guys are changing the format of The Finals, that’s a huge change.

RT: [Commisoner] David [Stern] has been the commissioner for 30 years, he has a style, he has a personality. Adam has been here 21 years, so he has worked very closely with David for the last 10 to 15 years. I’m sure a lot of things will be very similar, but Adam has a different personality than David, so I am sure there are a few things Adam will do differently. We have a lot of new owners in the league now, and the old line owners, there aren’t very many of them left. There are a lot of new, young guys, so it’s a different group to deal with. I’m sure there will be some differences, but I think it will be a very smooth transition, because Adam has been a big, big part of what has transpired here over the years because he’s worked so closely with David.

As you pointed out, we do have a difference in The Finals, in the schedule from a 2-3-2 to a 2-2-1-1-1 format. When that was put in place in 1984, we didn’t have charter flights, you flew commercial. It was harder to get the media from one place to another. The feeling was, we’ll get more stories if you get the media in a place for three games, and it will reduce the travel. Now those aren’t as big issues. The competition committee felt there was a competitive disadvantage in it in that three of the first five games will be on the court of a team with the lesser record. Usually in a seven game series, if the series is tied 2-2, 86 percent of the time the team that wins Game 5 goes on to win the series. Also, the committee felt the team that had to go on the road for three games would be gone for seven or eight days so there would be a competitive disadvantage for them. There were a lot of things that went in to it and the reasons we did it originally are not nearly as important as they were at the time.

CM: Rumor has it that you played a role in drafting Michael Jordan. When you saw him playing at North Carolina, did you think he was going to become one of the best players of all time? What did you think his ceiling or basement was, and did he exceed your expectations for him?

RT: You know something, when we drafted Michael, my feeling was that we had a need for a lot of different things, but we definitely needed a wing player. I thought Michael would be a very good player. I wish I were prescient enough to even consider that he might turn out to be what he was, but the reality is, I had no idea he was going to turn out to be what he turned out to be. I was very hopeful that he’d be a very good player, and be an All-Star type of player one day. To be arguably the greatest player ever, certainly one of the greatest players ever, I had no idea of that.

CM: I had to ask that. He broke his foot his second year, I broke my foot in the first year, no one remembers that!


VIDEO:
C.J. McCollum on his foot injury

RT: He certainly did. At the time it was widely reported that when he was about ready to come back toward the end of the year, the Bulls were very skeptical about bringing him back.  Michael’s retort was ‘I want to play now, I feel good, and I never want to play on a team that doesn’t make the playoffs.’ So he came back, and the Bulls made the playoffs and that’s when he scored 60-some points in one of the games. He had the same injury you had, and hopefully it will work out for you the same way.

CM: Going back to the NBA, how do you think the league has changed since you played and since you have been involved with the NBA up until now?

RT: Dramatically. When I came in the league as a 2nd pick, I got a one-year contract, and I had to make the team, it wasn’t guaranteed. There was no other league to play in, nobody played overseas. Our meal money was $8 a day on the road and we traveled commercial, in coach.  It was an entirely different league — not nearly as popular, not nearly what it is today. The athletes are so much better today than they were back when I came in the league. It’s much more international, we have 92 international players this year, that’s almost a quarter of the league. There were none in the league at that time I played.  Now we’re watched all over the world by 215 countries, we’re popular everywhere. We weren’t even popular in the States at that time. I can recall even when Magic Johnson played, The Finals were tape delayed.  They weren’t on live, and that wasn’t that long ago. This league has come an incredibly long way. With the great athletes in this league and how many good young players such as yourself we have coming into the league, I think the future is even greater.

CM: I had no idea. [Blazers player development director] Hersey Hawkins was saying how you always had to take the earliest flight the next day.

RT: If you played on a Friday and Saturday, you took the first flight out the next day. If it was 6 a.m., you had to take that flight. In my first year at the league, we played five games in five days. Now, you probably have 20 back-to-backs over the course of the season. We stayed in motels the majority of the time, not the first class hotels you stay in today.

CM: We’ve got it good! What type of success do you think Jason Kidd will have? A lot of people have said he was a great leader and motivator as a player, so what do you think about him and the Brooklyn Nets this year?

RT:  I think Jason is as smart as any player I’ve ever been around as far as understanding the game and as far as understanding what you need to do to win. That’s a plus. I think Jason gets instant respect because of who he is and he’ll be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He also has good players on his team, and he’s got veteran players. He is going to be a terrific coach, they are going to have a really good team. You are going to go through times that are difficult and things aren’t going that well. Everybody has to learn how to do that, particularly if you’re a first time coach, but I see nothing but really good things for him. He’s a terrific guy, knows the game, and he’s going to do great.

CM: I agree. I think he is going to do tremendous things for that team.

RT: When we got him in New Jersey, we had won 26 games. The year we got him, it went up to 52, and we won the Eastern Conference and played in The Finals. We were a bad defensive team, we were a bad rebounding team, we had bad chemistry, and he helped us in all those areas. His ability to pass and do team type things – he was just unbelievable. A great player.


VIDEO:
C.J. McCollum talks about his expectations for his rookie season

CM: I’ve done a lot of research on your career and have a tremendous amount of respect for you and what you have accomplished. What would be your advice for me for my basketball career and transitioning into the working world? I am interested in journalism and sports broadcasting, but I would also like to be a general manager. Any advice on the court and off?

RT: I think as you’re coming into the league, your first order of business is to become the best player you can be. Always maintain the best conditioning as you can, learn as much as you can about the game. Secondly, don’t forget about what goes on off the court. You’ll be in a position to make great contacts, you’ll be in a position to have a tremendous reputation not only as a player but also as a human being. If you work at your playing, if you work at making all the contacts you can, doing all you can when you’re not playing, there are so many other things you can do. You’re in a position to make a difference with kids, with other people, and in the business world. Learn all you can about it, don’t waste time. Do all you can with the many advantages you are going to have for as long as you play in this league. If you do, then you are going to have a heck of a playing career and you are going to be in a position to do things after your career is over, whether in the business world, the NBA, or wherever it is. Don’t let this opportunity go by. Too many live for only the moment and don’t try to branch out or think about what is going to happen to them. Hopefully your career will be a long, long one, but it will come to an end someday, so make sure that when it does, you’re ready for whatever comes after that.

CM: Thank you I appreciate that and it’s great advice. I look forward to maximizing and taking advantage of this opportunity. Thank you again for the opportunity to do this interview.

RT: I really appreciate it C.J. I was still in Philly when you came through and did a workout for us. You made a good impression not only with your basketball ability, but also with how you conducted yourself during the interview and workout. Everyone was very impressed with you and I’m sure you are going to have a heck of a career and good luck.

Media Day Dance Off!

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Yesterday we showed you what happens behind the scenes at any given Media Day. But what are you gonna do when…a Dance Off breaks out?

Portland’s CJ McCollum

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(more…)

Draft Diaries: C.J. McCollum

Adam Silver and C.J. McCollum

NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver is interviewed by Blazers rookie C.J. McCollum.

By C.J. McCollum, for NBA.com

NBA Draft week was a crazy, hectic, but ultimately, life-changing experience. Selected No. 10 by the Portland Trail Blazers, everything got off to a running start, but I still had a lot of questions about my rookie year and life in the NBA. On the day of the Draft, I had the special opportunity to get some answers directly from the best source and ask incoming NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on behalf of #DraftDreams, a site chronicling my journey and the journey of six others to the NBA Draft. Read more at www.draftdreams.com.

The interview with Adam wasn’t the first time I put my college degree to use as I have reported for NBA.com and Sports Illustrated before, but this was definitely a new challenge. Adam graciously took the time to talk to me and share his thoughts about hoops, rookie advice, fashion, the future of the league and how to continue honing my journalism skills. It was an amazing experience and I wanted to share our conversation with you, but first, here are the five most important takeaways I learned.  You can read the rest of the conversation after the jump.

1. He has an Instagram account! Follow him @adamsilvernba – there are some really cool photos on there  — he clearly has the best access in the NBA and some great behind the scenes shots.

2. If Adam didn’t work at the NBA he’d be in Silicon Valley at a Tech startup. Technology is so important to everything we do.  I am definitely on the same page there.

3. A good business lesson he passed on to me from Commissioner David Stern is to practice ‘execution and detail’.  Adam learned from David this great business advice as no detail is too small and you can’t cut corners.  That’s true in basketball as well as the boardroom.

4. Adam’s favorite pastime is playing catch with his three and-a-half year old Labrador, Eydie. I wish I could have a dog, but right now I wouldn’t be able to take care of it.  Adam confirmed it’s a lot of work.

5. If I were Adam’s son, “CJ McSilver“, he would have a preference on which NBA team I should play for because he has no favorite NBA team – every team has its advantages and disadvantages. That may be true, but Portland is definitely going to be a team to beat next year! 

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Check out our full conversation below:

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C.J. McCollum: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. While I have my degree in journalism and used to write and edit for my college newspaper, this is obviously my first time interviewing a future commissioner.

Adam Silver: Thanks for being here and congratulations on your degree in journalism!

CM: Thank you. Let’s get started. As a rookie just entering the NBA, what do you think will be my biggest challenges? Do you have any advice you can offer me?

AS: I think the biggest challenge is how much longer and more difficult the schedule is than college, the wear and tear on the body. Most rookies tend to hit a wall around March because your body is accustomed to only playing hard for so long. Because it’s an 82-game season, you have to be sure to pace yourself throughout the year. There is an extensive travel schedule, and the level of competition is the best in the world. There is a lot to absorb, and there is a lot of activity and distractions around the league. David Stern always says to focus on three things: nutrition, sleep and your game. Everything else can potentially be a distraction.

CM: I graduated from Lehigh with a degree in journalism. What do you suggest I do to hone in on and further develop my skills in journalism?

AS: One of the things I’d suggest you do is exactly what you are doing now. Use that degree while you play in the NBA. So that would mean taking advantage of opportunities to do interviews, whether they are with league executives, teammates, maybe fans and celebrities who follow the game. Use the access that you get by the virtue of being a player in the league. Write as much as you can. I think that writing is a muscle — same thing as working out — and I think if you find opportunities to write blog entries, stories and essays throughout the year that it would be great for you. I think that most great writers are also great readers, so I recommend reading as well.  The discipline of writing and sharing what you write with other journalists and writers and asking for feedback, is like asking others to give you feedback on your game. It’s the same thing.

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CM: Thank you, that’s really good advice.

My family has been watching the NBA Draft together for years, and this time I will actually be there! We always see you come out to announce the second round and everyone cheers. Who do you think is going to take over the second round once Commissioner Stern retires and you replace him?

AS: It’s a great question because David still has seven months or so left as Commissioner. We haven’t really focused on my successor or the succession plan. I’ll step into the role of getting the boos and someone else will step into the role of getting the cheers.

CM: After working alongside Commissioner Stern for so many years, is there any advice he has given you to help make the transition easier?

AS: One of the things I take from David — and I’ve worked for him for over 20 years — is what he refers to as ‘execution and detail.’ He is an extraordinarily hardworking person with very high standards for all of the people that work with him, and what I’ve learned is that no detail is too small, that you can’t cut corners; not any different than what I’m sure you’ve learned as a basketball player. You get out of it what you put into it. And so I’ve learned from David that you need to be passionate about what you do, and you can never let up because you never know when that critical time will come, when if you’re not paying absolute attention, you’ll slip up. I’ve learned that and so many other things from David, and I’ve been fortunate to work under him for over 20 years now.

CM: If you weren’t involved with basketball and the NBA, what would you do?

AS: I see you’re reading your questions off your iPad. I love technology. I have my iPad, iPad mini, iPhone and Mac laptop. Because I love technology, I think if I were not at the NBA, I would try to be part of a tech startup company. I enjoy my trips out to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Technology is changing the world, it’s changing our sport, it’s changing the way people are following the NBA. We have fans all over the world that are going to be watching you play on their smartphones as opposed to on a big television. If I weren’t at the NBA, I would be involved with a technology company of some sort.

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CM: What social media are you involved in? As the future Commissioner, do you have a Twitter account? Who do you follow?

AS: I have a Facebook page, and I post a lot of photos on it. I do the same with Instagram because, for example, at The Finals, I get this really special access that I’m sure fans would love to have … the equivalent of a backstage pass. You get to see guys warming up or you get to see guys greeting each other, legends in the green room or whatever else. I like to post a lot of that content. I have a Twitter handle, but right now it’s anonymous because I’m not tweeting. But I do follow about 150 people. If you have a handle I’m going to start following you. It’s a great way to hear directly from players or others in real time what their feelings are about an event. Often, when I’m watching a game, I can sort of see if there is a controversial call or just an incredible play. It’s the equivalent of almost being in the arena and getting the reaction of the crowd.

CM: Taking you back a little … Before Commissioner Stern put the dress code in place, players were wearing du-rags and large chains. I’d like to know how you would you grade my fashion?

AS: Before this interview started — and I mention this so people don’t think this is a setup — I complimented you on your vest. You definitely get an A. I don’t know if I could match checks and plaids the way you have, you’ve got to have a special touch to do that. Actually, I’d probably give you an A+, not just an A. I’m a little old school, everything’s got a looser fit, but you’re in style because everything is a little tighter and that’s the look. But as you go through the NBA training regimen, you’re going to have to leave a little room in the chest and shoulders.

CM: As you know, I went to Lehigh University. I have to bring this up. Did you watch the game where we beat Duke, your alma mater? Are you still a Duke fan?

AS: Yes, I watched that game. And yes, I’m a Duke fan. You scored 30 points. I remember the game, and, well, the best team won. But that was a devastating loss for us. I’m a huge Duke fan. I obviously went to Duke, am a big fan of the program and Coach K, and I enjoyed working with Coach K and his assistants on the USA Basketball program over the last several years.

CM: Sorry, didn’t want to bring it up, but I had to do it (laughing).

CM: Coming in as the Commissioner, is there anything in the NBA you would like to see changed or run differently?

AS:  Well, since I’ve been part of this for so long, if there were something I would have really wanted to see changed, hopefully I would have worked to change it. All I have to say at this point is that I have huge, huge shoes to fill with David Stern stepping down. I’d only be so lucky to continue to grow it in the way that David has over the past 30 years.

CM: What do you like to do for fun or in your spare time?

AS: In my spare time, and you can tell this is my labor of love, because in my spare time I enjoy watching basketball and not just NBA basketball. I watch college basketball and sports in general. I’m also a runner. I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near Central Park, so I try to squeeze in runs through Central Park when I can. I have a 3-1/2-year-old Labrador named Eydie, so we go to the park as much as we can. She’s coded to retrieve tennis balls, so she gets mad at me when I’m not throwing them.

CM: I want to get a dog, but right now I do too much traveling.

AS: Yeah. After you get a chef, then your next purchase might be multiple dog walkers. It’s a big undertaking.

CM:  Here is my last question. If I were your son, CJ McSilver, what team would you want me to play with? What organization from top to bottom would be best?

AS: It’s a tricky question because I love all my teams equally and I really mean it. I think every city has advantages and disadvantages. I’m a big believer in culture, and one of the things we’ve been able to achieve through collective bargaining and revenue sharing is putting each team in a position where, if they are well-managed and create the right culture, they have an opportunity to win. We’re really proud of that.

Some small market teams have big advantages because they are the only major league team in town, so they draw an enormous amount of attention. San Antonio and Oklahoma City may fall in that category, and then you have big city teams like Chicago and New York. But in big city teams you have that many more distractions; not just for the players, but for the fans too because there are so many different entertainment options competing for their time. I’ve been with the league over 20 years, I’ve known players at every team, I’ve known lots of owners, and lots of general managers. I don’t think there is one single formula for success. I think it’s a fantastic 30-team league, and I know you’re going to make the most of any team you’re on and have an incredible career.

CM: Thank you, I appreciate it.

AS: No problem. Good luck!

Draft Diaries: C.J. McCollum

By C.J. McCollum, for NBA.com

The Graduate

CJ McCollum and family

The proud graduate with his family.

When I saw the look on my Mom and Dad’s face as I crossed the stage at graduation, I knew all the hard work and late nights in the library were worth it! I graduated from Lehigh University a couple weeks ago, and not only did I feel a great sense of pride, but I had a lot of fun! My whole family was there to see me graduate. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Aunt, and almost all of my cousins were there. We did miss my brother, though, who is overseas playing professional basketball in Greece. I hadn’t seen my family since Easter, so it was nice to spend time with everybody and enjoy the end of a fun, exciting chapter and the start of a new one with them.

NBA TV was on-site documenting the whole thing. They started taping my family and me before we left the house in the morning and then captured more footage at graduation. They also interviewed my teammates and coaching staff at Lehigh. It’s supposed to air when it gets closer to the Draft. Oh, and I took a selfie with the school president as she handed me my diploma, which was hilarious – I hope NBA TV got that on film!

A lot of students and their families were asking for my picture and for an autograph. It took my Mom and I about an hour and a half to get from the field where we had graduation back to the car since I kept stopping to talk to people. It was definitely fun for me, especially because I can clearly remember a time when nobody wanted my autograph. In the last two years, as I’ve progressed in basketball and made more of a name for myself, I realize I get that request more and more often and I take a lot of pride in that.

The whole graduation experience was filled with mixed emotions. It was great to celebrate and get together with my friends one last time in a college setting. I felt content with my college career because I did just about everything I wanted to accomplish, except winning a National Championship of course. It was tough, but all of the hard work was definitely worth it!

Front Row At The Draft Lottery

I had a chance to go to the NBA Draft Lottery, which was awesome! I went with Anthony Bennett and Michael Carter-Williams, two fellow Draftees I’ve spent a lot of time with since I started training in Long Island. Not only were we sitting front row, but I also got the chance to meet Damian Lillard, who was the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year. We’ve been in contact over the last few years, so it was good to finally meet him in person. I had a chance to speak to him privately about his experience transitioning from a smaller school to the NBA. I also was interested in hearing how he stayed consistent and dealt with the ups and downs of his rookie season.

After I spoke to him on the side, NBA TV taped Anthony, Michael and I picking Damian’s brain a little bit, asking all kinds of questions about life in the NBA.

Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, top picks in the 2012 NBA Draft, were there too and it was real nice to meet them. They were cool and happy to share their experiences with us.

We also met and shook hands with Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner, soon to be Commissioner Adam Silver. I hope to be shaking Commissioner Stern’s hand again very soon at the Draft!

I’ve always watched the NBA Draft Lottery on TV, but to be there live and in a situation where the Lottery will dictate which team will Draft me … now that’s very interesting.

Eye On The Prize

We’ve been tapering down our training a bit so nobody gets hurt, especially since we’re traveling to a lot of team workouts. Of course we’re still getting in our reps, but it’s just not as intense.

It has been nice to see all of the positive feedback from teams and the media. Sometimes I look at the player rankings, but I don’t read into it too much or let it alter my mindset. The path to the Draft is a long process and all you can control is how hard you work and how well you prepare yourself and I feel like I’ve done a good job with both of those things.

It’s actually been easy for me to stay focused and on the right track because I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time. I’m almost there, I can taste it … the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp, the NBA Draft Lottery, next thing I know it will be Draft night, so it’s all business right now. I have been able to enjoy myself a little bit though. Last week I took in a Yankee/Mets game, which was great.  Special thanks to the Lehigh Alum who took care of us at the game. We have a great alumni network and I’m proud to now be part of it! Aside from the baseball game and a barbeque on Memorial Day, it has been all about basketball!

As for my mindset now, I’m fully recovered from my injury, and my body feels strong. I have my college degree. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity and hope to reach my dream of not only getting drafted, but also becoming an NBA mainstay and building a legacy in the league. I’ve worked extremely hard, and I’m ready for the next step!

I’m not sure if I’ll be blogging again before the Draft, so make sure to follow me on Twitter @CJMcCollum and on instagram and vine @3JMCCOLLUM to catch the latest on my journey. Wish me luck!

A Night At The NBA Draft Lottery

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last night in New York City, a handful of NBA franchises looking for a little luck gathered in Times Square to try and beat the odds. That’s right, it’s the annual NBA Draft lottery, where the best of the worst vie for the first pick in the NBA Draft. I showed up and brought my cell phone camera along with me to see what went down behind the scenes.

Let’s get to the pictures …

photo 1

I arrived in Times Square right around 6:30 p.m. and fought my way over to the ABC Studios, where they shoot “Good Day America” or “Today This Morning” or whatever they call it — one of those morning shows that airs when I’m still asleep. There’s never really a good time to be in Times Square, because it is consistently crowded and busy and bustling, but 6:30 p.m. must be just about the worst time. Add in that it was humid and in the mid-80s today, and Times Square felt a bit like being stuck in a mosh pit. Or at the bottom of a mosh pit. (more…)

Draft Diaries: C.J. McCollum

Lehigh's C.J. McCollum had his first professional photo shoot in New York recently. (Pete Monsanto photo)

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum had his first professional photo shoot in New York recently. (Pete Monsanto photo)

By C.J. McCollum, for NBA.com

Ready To Walk

On May 20th, I will be walking across the stage to earn my bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from Lehigh University. I’ll be coming straight from the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp to get my diploma at our commencement ceremony that Monday at 10 a.m. My family will be there watching, and my mom, especially, is going to be really proud of me. I am happy and thrilled to finish in four years at a school like Lehigh. It was a terrific experience. I came in as a boy and am leaving as a grown man. I said I was going to graduate and I’m about to do it!

Sometimes people ask me why I stayed for my senior year when I probably could have been a first-round pick last year. First of all, I promised my parents I would get my degree in four years. I also felt like I had a great opportunity at Lehigh to better myself, on and off the floor. I felt like having to manage the balance between school and basketball would help me stay grounded and focused on the task at hand, which was to get my degree in four years and prepare for life after basketball.

McCollum scored 54 points in his first game as a starter in high school.

McCollum scored 54 points in his first game as a starter in high school.(Courtesy Lehigh)

There were risks and rewards for both leaving school early and staying, but I was willing to take the risk of returning for my senior year. I’m very content and comfortable with the decision I made. Coming to Lehigh was one of the best decisions I ever made, and staying was an even greater decision. Even though I got hurt last year, I learned a lot and wouldn’t change anything. Actually, I think my injury was a blessing in disguise because it gave me a chance to focus on other things, like academics, and also allowed me to work on my body and improve my overall physical strength.

I’m going to really miss the relationships and friendships I’ve developed here. There’s nothing like the college atmosphere, especially living with your teammates. I’m already starting to miss it and I’m still here!

A Day In The Life

I am very busy these days between wrapping up the school year and getting in my workouts. I have class from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I typically start those days with an on-court workout and treatment. After about six hours of class (with a lunch break of course), I go home, eat a snack and head straight to the weight room to do the workout that our strength and conditioning coaches created for me. Then it’s physical therapy for my foot and more shooting practice at night. But my day isn’t over yet. I usually go to the library until about 2 a.m. finishing up research papers and presentations. My full workouts are on the days that I don’t have class, and my coaches incorporate boxing into my workouts, which is fun. Every day is a specific workout tailored to different parts of my body.

I’ve been lifting since January 11, and I’m feeling good. I’m excited and happy with how far I’ve come. But I have a long way to go to get where I ultimately want to end up. I want to excel at the next level — not just get there — so there’s a lot of work to be done.

Mission: Select An Agent

The process of picking my agent was hectic and very stressful. There are a lot of agents out there that are good at what they do, but I knew I had to make that decision based on what was best for me. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make in my life. My mom told me that I’d know when it felt right, and that was true. Excel Sports Management felt like the right fit for me. I think working with Excel will be very beneficial for my playing future, and off the court as well.

Bring on The Big Apple!

I recently traveled to New York City, and it was a very, very entertaining trip. In addition to meeting the Excel team, I had my first-ever professional photo shoot. I got to try on all kinds of different outfits. Now that’s something I’d like to take part in again — I was very comfortable, not camera shy at all! I also went to the Beats By Dre store, and signed the wall where all kinds of famous people have signed. Oh, and I had my first New York City hot dog! The city has a lot to offer, and I was very thankful for the opportunity to meet a lot of great people! I definitely look forward to coming back to start my pre-draft workouts.

It’s an exciting time! Follow me on Twitter @CJMcCollum and on Instagram @ 3jmccollum to find out how everything is going!

The NBA Draft is June 27 in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.