In the final On the night of the All-Star break, New Orleans Pelicans guard C.J. McCollum, forward Brandon Ingram and coach Willie Green went to a small, private dinner at FLINT via Baltare in Phoenix.
The Pelicans went 1-4 up from a February 8 trade that sent Josh Hart, Thomas Sodoransky, Nickel Alexander-Walker and DD Lucada to the Portland Trailblazers for McCallum, Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell. At 23-36, according to ESPN’s BPI estimates, they had only a 10% chance of reaching the playoffs.
Ingram and McCollum were the dominant players on the ball, and Green, in his first season as head coach, had to figure out how to position both players to win.
So the trio enjoyed a Cabernet Sauvignon with BASIC. McCullum, one of the NBA’s top wine experts, who runs his own winery in Oregon, had placed the order in 2015, but they were granted in 2018, which is a significant error. McCullum said the mistake was made quickly, and they resolved a quick fix in 2017.
They say it was the turning point of the pelican season, when a trio gathered around oysters, French fries, donuts, sorbet and sparkling wine.
“I think it set the stage and tone throughout the season, allowing us to connect on a different level,” McCullum told ESPN. “It kind of allowed us all to be on the same page, to express what we want, to be able to achieve together, and to express how we’re going to do it.”
McCallum, who has nine years of experience, told Ingram during dinner that he would like to have an open contact with him and discuss the game on every occasion.
“I was impressed to hear him say everything he said,” Ingram says. “All he said was that he had passed the league, his vision of the game, he said I could contact him any way I needed to. It helped me.”
The Pelicans went 13-10 after the All-Star break and finished No. 9 in the regular season. Despite Ingram missing 13 games from trade, New Orleans are 8-2 up with McCullum and Ingram respectively. Ingram has been listed as a possibility for Wednesday’s play-off game against San Antonio Spurs.
McCullum never missed a postseason while playing with all-star Damien Lillard in Portland. But for that team dinner to continue this season, McCullum just has to lead this young Pelicans team, which has very little playoff experience and yet without its owner Superstar.
Leads to Trailblazer’s locker room inside the Mota Center is reminiscent of one of McCallum’s greatest plays of all time. The picture shows McCallum getting up, waving his wrist and moving the ball towards the basket in the 7th match of the 2019 Western Conference Semi-Final against Denver Nuggets – one of the lasting memories of the time he lived in Portland. .
Every day when Lillard goes to the locker room, he is reminded of his friend’s achievements. Both had three 50-win seasons. They once came to the Western Conference Finals – McCullum’s shot on the wall lifted them there – but they knew they would hit their ceiling.
“We knew it would come at the end. We had that conversation. We knew this day was coming, but when that day really came it was ‘Damn,’ says Lillard.” We’ve achieved a lot. But s —, all good things come to an end. “
Lillard and McCullum always sat side by side on the team plane. Took vacation together. They go to home games together. Even their mothers became closer.
Every year on Media Day, the two promise to hold each other accountable for the season, whatever.
“It’s weird, man. It’s weird watching him play with someone else,” Lillard says. “It’s almost like a little bit of jealousy. He’s having fun with them. I always said, CJ and I really are. [partners]. That’s really my friend. I always know what he’s capable of. “
Much of what he did in Portland was an attempt to balance his style with Lillard’s.
McCullum says his leadership style came from his parents. His mother emphasized the importance of communication and accountability to others. His dad taught him that if you want to get respect from people, you have to give it back.
Sometimes, he learned, that is, to be direct and blunt.
“CJ supported me, and then he was a hole,” Lillard says. “He’s going to say what he has to say. I’m wearing different hats with everyone on this team. CJ was like, ‘Do you want to win? You’re BS-ing. You have to work on your game.’ I think he’s going to bring that kind of presence.”
Nance, who joined the trade with Portland, says he has seen McCallum accept his role as a senior leader in New Orleans. In Portland, Nance says he backed McCullum Lillard in talks with the team. Now, he says, McCollum is “trying to deliver the message.”
“I can be a hole sometimes,” McCallum says. “I’m very direct and very outspoken, but I can also be a motivating team and show different types of leadership roles. But in order for Dame to succeed, we have to be that person.”
McCullum does not have the all-star senior player as the primary voice of the franchise. He needs to talk now – he knows it.
Recently During the four-game, seven-day West Coast road trip, the Pelicans had several group dinners, including one at their Italian location near their hotel in Los Angeles and a steakhouse in Sacramento. But that is not the important place; Arrange the seat for it.
In both, McCullum sat next to Zion Williamson, who was left out of the squad when McCallum arrived in New Orleans, where he was recovering from a season-long leg injury. The two talked for hours, joking and bonding with each other, and the team hopes the couple will be grounded for years to come.
“You give us another dynamic rolling finish. You give us a player who can play triple, he’s selfless and he wants to win,” said David Griffin, executive vice president of basketball operations for the Pelicans. “It’s exciting to think about what they can achieve together because their moods fit in so well with each other.”
McCullum says he plans to go to Williamson’s house when the season is over and get to know him better, and will do the same with the other team. He says he will be arranging meetings for the team in Las Vegas during the Summer League.
“I think that’s how you create chemistry,” McCallum says. “This is how you create unity.”
Although McCullum’s leadership style outside the court was important to New Orleans, his influence on the court was even greater.
When asked why McCullum’s message was so well received, Ingram says, “First through his play.” “Come out and try to be consistent every night. Guys respect him and have seen him in this league.”
In his first 25 games with New Orleans (after five minutes of regular season finals, zero-point performance), McCullum averaged 25.2 points, 6.0 assists and 49.5% shooting and 4.6 rebounds per game. All of those scores are at an all-time career high. He averaged 39.9% shooting from 3 with an application rate of 29.5%.
Part of the team’s recent success has been the transfer of McCullum on the point card, Ingram on the wings and Rocky Herb Jones on the power and forward to the new starting line – up with Jackson Hayes and Jonas Valencianas at the center.
The line-up recorded an attack rating of 122.6 with a net rating of 8.2 in 142 minutes. Since February 14, the Pelicans have won five games by 30 or more points – a new ownership record for a season, according to ESPN figures and data.
Mcollum’s former backcourt teammate says he’s seen more Pelicans games this season in his entire life, not surprisingly with the win.
“Looking at the talent they have in New Orleans, I thought in my head when the trade was going on, he was what they needed,” Lillard says. “Look at their team, they have talent, they mix youth with a little experience. You threw him into the mix. You’re really got something. I think it takes shape.”
So while the Pelicans should be out of the play-offs without Williamson, the team is confident of how McCullum can lead the young owner and its aspiring, injured superstar.
“We definitely trusted CJ and his abilities on the ground,” Green says. “We saw a ton of pictures of him in Portland. … he’s a competitor. We see all of this coming together in New Orleans.”