CJ McCollum had some say in trade to New Orleans Pelicans, 'excited' for opportunity

METAIRIE, La. -- CJ McCollum had spent his entire NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers after being selected by the franchise with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

Now 564 games later, he's preparing to play his first for another team when he suits up for the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night against the Miami Heat.

Because of the 8½ seasons McCollum spent with Portland, it gave him some say during the trade process that sent him, Tony Snell and Larry Nance to the Pelicans.

McCollum told reporters Thursday morning he was thankful that he didn't have to go through the process other players sometimes go through when they are blindsided by the news of a trade.

"But I'm very fortunate to be going somewhere where I'm wanted, needed and where there's mutual admiration," McCollum said.

McCollum added that he maintained a dialogue with the Trail Blazers' front office throughout the process as well as with his agent and his wife and they determined New Orleans was the best place for both parties.

"I'm excited," he said about the opportunity to play in New Orleans. "I'm thankful to have been in the league this long and have played with one organization this long. Looking forward to a new chapter. Looking forward to a new challenge and looking forward to playing with these young guys."

McCollum specifically mentioned Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram -- "You seen B.I. play lately?" -- as a player he wanted to share the court with. He also mentioned having battles against Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas from Valanciunas' time with the Memphis Grizzlies.

But he also had praise for Pelicans coach Willie Green and said he talked with several of Green's former players and teammates, including Chris Paul, about Green.

"He's very down to earth. It's kind of what I heard about him. He's stern when he needs to be. But he's a very loving coach. A very family-oriented guy. A God-fearing man who gets the best out of his best players. Having played, I think he understands what goes into this game from a preparation standpoint, what needs to be done to be successful," McCollum said.

"I respect all coaches, but when you have a coach who's played, you have a different type of relationship because they've been through the fire. He knows what it's like to see guys get traded. He knows what it's like to land at midnight and play a game the next day at 6 o'clock. I'm lucky to have this working relationship with him."

McCollum, who serves as the president of the NBPA, said he spoke with Pelicans forward Garrett Temple, who serves as one of the NBPA's vice presidents, about coming to New Orleans and it also helped sell him on the situation.

"We've been speaking on it for a while lately," McCollum said. "Obviously, he's on the executive committee. I have a very good relationship with him. He's a very intelligent man, a smart guy who does things the right way. Once he kind of told me what the situation was like, what I'd be walking into, I felt very comfortable with it."

New Orleans is 22-32 and currently sits in the No. 10 spot in the Western Conference standings, the last spot for the play-in tournament. The last time New Orleans made the playoffs was 2017-18 when they swept McCollum's Blazers in the first round.

McCollum will now try and help the Pelicans get back to a place he has been many times -- the postseason. He acknowledged that it won't be easy learning on the fly with the Pelicans down the stretch but he's looking forward to embracing that challenge.

"I think everybody knows how I operate, how I get down and how I handle things," McCollum said. "Those are the qualities that really matter. I work hard. I take care of myself. And I perform hard every night. I think just that leadership quality, how to be good consistently. How to elevate your team. Making the playoffs eight straight years. This will be nine when we make the playoffs. So I'm looking forward to that."