PORTLAND, Ore — The Portland Trail Blazers are leaving PDX this week and CJ McCollum is packing his bags for the NBA bubble.
"I'm still washing clothes, like how many days am I going to pack for?"
It wasn't an easy choice for McCollum to get to this point. He seriously considered not playing.
"I love the game of basketball, I would love to go out there and compete and all of those things, but at the time I felt like I didn't want to play," McCollum said. "This is a conversation that happened a long time ago. We've progressed, have more information, circumstances, situation, testing, everything that's kind of set up now. There's more information, but based on the time and information that had been given, I didn't feel comfortable playing."
Portland is one of 22 teams heading to the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida to resume the season. Initially, it wasn't a unanimous decision to return to play within the Blazers locker room.
"I talked to everybody and it was just like, whatever you want to do, I support you," said McCollum, who is on the NBA Players Association's executive committee. "I'm gonna give you the facts, I'm going to let you know what I think personally, how I feel personally, kind of go from there. But we basically voted on it and kind of went from there."
"It wasn't unanimous. For what it's worth, I can tell you I voted no."
As more information became available about COVID-19 and what the league was doing to minimize risks, McCollum felt more comfortable with the idea of playing again, but his decision wasn't just based on the risks of the coronavirus pandemic.
"My biggest thing was family. Being around family not wanting to expose people. Understanding basketball is important, but life is more precious than the game, so that was my real thinking behind it," said McCollum. "What's going on in the world right now, I wanted to make sure if I am going to go, we have a plan in place to where we can still impact and make a difference in our society. Specifically, the community that we come from and try to better the next generation of young Black kids and kids of color."
Using his platform to continue the push for change mattered. Players are allowed to have social messages on the backs of their jerseys. McCollum says he will have education reform on his jersey.
"I'm big on education. I think that's really important. It's something that we lack especially in certain communities, the Black community and people of color, communities where kids are at a disadvantage. I think there needs to be more light on that, so that's kind of been my focus and will continue to be my focus. Obviously there's a lot of things that need fixing in this world, but historically, I've focused on education."
McCollum says he'll be ready to play when the Blazers tip-off against the Memphis Grizzlies on July 31. Portland is guaranteed 8 games to try and keep its playoff hopes alive, but McCollum isn't looking too far ahead of the schedule.
"We've got some scrimmages, I haven't packed, it's just like you're in denial that you're leaving, then you leave and just jump right back into it," said McCollum. "That's kind of how I've prepared, but everyone's different. I just try to keep everything the same. Work out like I normally would. I'll walk my dog a little bit more because I'm not going to see her. Make sure I pay attention and enjoy the time I have with my future wife because you don't know when you're coming back and time is precious."
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