McCollum's D-League stint could set a precedent Jan 3, 2014 11:49:54 GMT -8
Post by DiamondThief on Jan 3, 2014 11:49:54 GMT -8
Trail Blazers fans have eagerly been waiting to see the on-court skills of their 10th pick in last summer's draft.
CJ McCollum rolled through summer league and headed into training camp eyeing a spot in the team's rotation. Then a setback hit during camp when he fractured his left foot. After two-and-a-half months of rehab, McCollum is set to make his professional debut tonight, but not in a Blazers uniform. The team assigned him to its D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede, for a pair of games this weekend -- January 3 and 4 -- with both games coming in Boise as the Stampede host the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (both nights). McCollum is expected to rejoin the Blazers at practice on January 6.
Major League Baseball teams have been doing this for years. Whether it be a veteran or rookie, a team will assign a player coming back from injury to a minor league farm affiliate for a stretch of games before returning them to full duty in the majors. It is a way for the player to get his legs under him and get into the flow of game action. The level of play is not as high as it is on the big stage but the important thing is to get the player playing.
Fortunately the Blazers have not yet needed McCollum's services as they have raced out to the Western Conference's best record (as of last night). Team chemistry is in abundance and the guys on the floor have been playing better than anyone could have expected and better than that for which anyone could have hoped. Portland may not finish the season atop the conference but that likely wasn't even the goal in the first place. Many pondered whether this team with a new legitimate center and improved bench could even make the playoffs in a conference as competitive as the west. As many as 13 teams were said to have a legitimate shot at contending for one of the eight playoff spots.
The Blazers stand at 26-7 on the season. To put this in perspective let us use 50 wins as a playoff qualifier. The Blazers would have to finish out the season 24-25 just to settle on 50 wins. Now the question is not will they make the playoffs? The question is will they be one of the top four teams and earn home court advantage in the first round?
All that said the team is in a hugely advantageous position of not needing McCollum to rush back. My guess is that the Blazer brass is itching to see what McCollum can to on the court. It is just that they don't need him on the court before he is ready.
The Philadelphia 76ers are in a similar situation. The first round lottery pick for whom they traded, Nerlens Noel is getting close to returning. Should they follow the Blazers' lead with McCollum and have Noel spend some time in the D-League before joining the team? That is up to the 76ers' brass but it is certainly an option for them.
Regardless of what the 76ers decide with Noel it is my feeling that we will see an increase in these D-League rehab assignments over the course of the next several years as more teams are seeing the benefits of giving some of their returning players some game experience prior to re-joining their team.
It works for MLB teams. It could definitely be a benefit for NBA teams as well; especially those fortunate enough to be patient in seeing their players return to the court as the Blazers are with McCollum.
Be sure to follow McCollum's pro debut in our game thread. The Stampede and Vipers tip off at 6 p.m.
Note: Jake Fischer of SB Nation's Liberty Ballers site has pondered this very same question. You can read his article here.