McCollum's Star Shines Bright
New Orleans is fortunate to have CJ McCollum both on and off the court—and it has been a remarkable week for this Pelicans superstar.
Return to the Pelicans' Lineup
The 6'3" Lehigh alum entered the 2023-24 NBA season strongly, playing hard and leading the team to victories in early games played without Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. In the first six games of the season, he averaged 21.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.7 assists.
However, during the November 4 game against the Atlanta Hawks, McCollum suffered a broken rib and was further diagnosed with a small pneumothorax in his right lung, causing him to miss 12 games.
One aspect of McCollum's game that is undeniably admirable is his persistence, playing through tough times and doing everything in his power to show up for his team. When asked about this, McCollum explained, "I have a small window of time to play this game that I love. I try to be the best version of myself every day and get the most out of my talent."
Regarding his feelings watching from the sidelines these past few weeks, McCollum explained how he views the time off: "While I can play, I want to play. I practice, I work on my game, I sacrifice so much to play, so why would I not want to play a game, right? So that's my mentality, that's my approach, and I pride myself on doing that," he said.
That said, with rest and proactive healing regimens, McCollum is making his way back into the game, starting with his comeback at home on November 29 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
McCollum Bounces Back
During Wednesday's game, McCollum put up 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists during his 28 minutes of play. The game resulted in a sweeping win over Philadelphia, where the Pels' lead wasn't broken once throughout the game. The final score was 124-114, with the high scorer being Zion Williamson with 33 points, shooting 92% from the paint.
"I was excited. I felt like a kid again. Being able to play in the game after being injured and the type of injury that it was, I'm thankful I can play, was able to ramp up to return, play the game I love, and help my team," McCollum said.
McCollum explains that while his injury concerned him at first, the doctors found that it was an impact injury from the broken rib. Although he felt very debilitated, especially considering how "weird it was to be on oxygen," he is grateful for his healthy recovery. He further explains that the recovery was a good experience, reflecting on not just gratitude for simple actions like walking and breathing, but also for a cleansing relief where he could think retrospectively about the game and enjoy time with his family.
While the Pelicans understand they have the means to execute consistent wins, they've been having a difficult time doing so through all four quarters. McCollum explains he can now "help with calling plays down the stretch of games. I played for so long and developed an understanding of the game in terms of plays and spacing."
"We're grateful to get CJ back healthy. We all felt his presence right away with his ability to space the floor to make plays for himself and his teammates, and his leadership on and off the floor," said Coach Willie Green regarding McCollum's return.
While flying may be tricky for this weekend, Pels fans can expect to have him in the lineup for the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals game against the Sacramento Kings on Monday.
Athlete, Father, Philanthropist
Not only has this week brought McCollum's name back into the basketball discussion, but it has also been a tremendous week for him personally.
This past week, McCollum proudly announced the birth of his second child. On November 13, 2023, McCollum's wife gave birth to their beautiful daughter, Margaux.
Congratulations are further in order as McCollum has been awarded the NBA Cares Bob Lanier Community Assist Award for the month of October. The award recognizes his impact in juvenile justice reform, youth engagement, and education and literacy.
With this recognition, McCollum received the David Robinson trophy in-arena before the 76ers game on Wednesday, November 29th, and, more importantly, a $10,000 check made out to the Louisiana Center for Children's Rights from the NBA.
When moving to New Orleans, McCollum recognized the "tremendous opportunity I would have to impact lives and meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our community," he said. "I am grateful to win this award and to continue this work with local and national partners to provide a fair and equitable experience for justice-involved youth in New Orleans."
McCollum had joined forces with Louisiana State Senator Royce Duplessis, a strong advocate for juvenile justice reform, and both the Louisiana Center for Children's Rights and the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition (NBSJC) to visit the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center and Travis Hill School in New Orleans. Upon the visit, McCollum toured the facilities and shared personal stories about resilience and the importance of education in his life with the kids over lunch.
After the visit, McCollum, Sen. Duplessis, and the NBSJC joined forces to address issues in the juvenile justice system for the youth and explored solutions to achieve social justice.
McCollum is devoted to addressing systemic inequities that perpetuate the cycle of recidivism among vulnerable populations. Furthermore, he is passionately working towards narrowing the gaps in education, literacy, and racial wealth by advocating for quality education access for low-income students and facilitating a path to attaining post-secondary degrees. Utilizing his position as an NBA player, McCollum has heightened awareness and fostered collaboration on a crucial issue affecting not only the New Orleans community but also the nation at large.
Up Next... The In Season Tournament!
Join us in cheering on CJ McCollum and the rest of the Pelicans over the next few weeks as we watch the inaugural In Season Tournament unfold. We've clinched the spot for West Group B, so we'll face off with the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. Go Pels!