New Orleans Pelicans star C.J. McCollum helped his team win their season opener against the Brooklyn Nets. After the game, he shared a story about how some Nets fans tried to psych him into missing a free throw by calling out his former teammate. And apparently, the trick worked.
Two years after being selected with the No. 10 pick of the 2013 draft, the Lehigh University product experienced a breakthrough after the team promoted him to the starting lineup to form a backcourt tandem with star Damian Lillard. McCollum responded by averaging 20.8 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.5 3-pointers per game in the regular season. Because of his impressive leap, he earned the Most Improved Player award.
The 6-foot-3 guard continued his strong offensive production in the following years, never averaging fewer than 20 points and two 3-pointers in a season since then. Unfortunately, the Blazers could not make it past the Western Conference Finals in any of those years.
The last laugh
Last year, the Portland front office decided to retool around Lillard and traded McCollum for several players and draft assets. Some people around the league were skeptical that the 31-year-old could escape the shadow of his former All-Star teammate. The Nets fans who were heckling him on Wednesday perhaps thought the same.
While they successfully made the veteran clank his freebie, it was McCollum who had the last laugh as the Pelicans came out with the win. New Orleans routed Brooklyn 130-108 on the back of strong performances by Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and McCollum.
It's probably safe to say that McCollum doesn't really need Dame - he's far more likely to make it to the playoffs.