C.J. McCollum played in his second game with the Idaho Stampede on Saturday night, but it didn't go quite as smoothly as his debut.
McCollum checked into the game at around the same mark - just over half way through the first quarter - but the rookie failed to score his first basket until the closing seconds of the period, starting the game shooting 0-for-3 from the field. The second quarter was a little kinder to McCollum, as he was able to shake loose for a pair of good looks at the basket, but he still entered half-time with a quiet stat-line of just seven points and one assist.
Luckily for the Stampede, it had no ill effect on the team, as they entered the break with a 59-51 lead over the Vipers, thanks to Pierre Jackson's 14 points. But the second half proved to be a different story for McCollum. In the third, he was much more active, and in the fourth, helped spark a big run for the Stampede by scoring 10 points, including a floater to tie the game up with 9.8 seconds to go in regulation.
At the end of the night, he finished with 24 points in 23 minutes off the bench on 11-for-23 shooting from the field.
As was the case in his debut, McCollum struggled with his outside shot against the Vipers on Saturday, making just two of the 12 jump-shots he attempted. He looked comfortable taking the shots and none of them were forced; he just couldn't knock them down. But again, he was fantastic around the rim, where he did the bulk of his damage, and he had little trouble getting by his defender. It was also encouraging to see him overcome a rough start and take over at the end of the game. Even McCollum said after the win that his legs felt "more underneath [him]" when compared to his debut and that, had they not shut him down, he would've played in the overtime, per The Oregonian.
There's a lot of good to take away from McCollum's first two games in the D-League, but it's also clear that there is still some rust that needs to be shaken off, mainly with his jump-shot, since he knocked down just four of his 17 attempts from outside the paint. But seeing as he was a was a great shooter in his four years at Lehigh, Blazers fans should be optimistic that it won't take him long to regain his shooting touch.
McCollum's stint with the Stampede is now over, as the Trail Blazers have recalled him in time for their practice on Sunday, but his weekend in the D-League was a great success. If all goes well, C.J. is expected to make his NBA debut against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, but who knows if this is the last time he'll play in the D-League this season.
Given the fact that the Blazers are a much deeper team than they were this time a year ago, McCollum could find himself on assignment again somewhere down the line if he falls out of the rotation for any reason. He's even said that it has helped him get into game shape and develop a rhythm, so I doubt he'd be opposed to the idea if it's ever brought up. And Mike Peck, the Stampede's head coach, had nothing but praise for the rookie, saying, "he did a heck of a job for [them]" and that they'd love to have him back if the Blazers see the need to assign him again.