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"Just stack the days": NBPA President CJ McCollum on advice to Pelicans teammate Zion Williamson, their 2023-24 season and more (Exclusive)


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Sometimes, CJ McCollum gives Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram advice. Oftentimes, McCollum keeps his thoughts to himself in hopes that his disciplined day-to-day regimen speaks loudly enough.

Not only has McCollum seen ongoing improvement this season with their collective chemistry through more continuity and better health. McCollum has become pleased both with how they respond to his feedback and how his training regimen have affected them.

CJ McCollum interview (Exclusive)

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“It’s been cool to watch them figure out their own routines and get their own groove,” McCollum told Sportskeeda. “As I tell Z [Zion] all the time, ‘Just stack days.’ He’s doing that. I tell BI, he’s a guy that likes to work. But sometimes you got to rest. Rest your mind and rest your body. You’ll feel more rejuvenated.’ He’s been doing a good job with figuring out when to work out, when to get lifts in and when to rest. I’m just proud of their development and growth.”

McCollum spoke to Sportskeeda about his chemistry with Williamson and Ingram and his improved health and efficiency. He also shared his thoughts on never making an All-Star team and winning the NBA’s Community Assist award for his various community initiatives.

Editor’s note: The following one-on-one conversation has been edited and condensed.

How would you evaluate where the Pelicans are just before the All-Star break?

CJ McCollum:

“We’re in a pretty good spot. We’re eight games over .500. Guys are healthy. We played pretty well against good teams lately. With the All-Star break around the corner, we have a good chance to make up for some of our early-season losses and establish ourselves in the playoffs and stay out of the Play-In.”

What’s your comfort level with the group moving forward?

CJ McCollum:

“Everybody is happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish so far in terms of the fact that we had some injuries and had some things that happened to us this season. We’ve still been able to position ourselves well not only to make the playoffs, but potentially have some home games. But the top of the West is a beast, so you have to really take care of teams under .500 and steal games against teams that are over .500, especially on the road.

Health aside, what will it take for the Pelicans to make a deep playoff run?

CJ McCollum:

“Health is the biggest thing. We want to get as many games together as we can consistently with our core guys and that we can have practices together and having to execute down the stretch in games. All of that experience is important for later on in the season. The game is easier when your best players play. It’s chemistry, continuity and understanding where guys are going to be at. Then it’s also the practice reps, whether that’s going live, watching film or going through stuff. Having that dialogue and being able to be on that court and experience some of the things you talked about in walk through, it’s very helpful.”

In what ways have you seen growth in your two-man game with Zion and your three-man game with BI?

CJ McCollum:

“We’re all learning how to play off each other and figure out where we like the ball at, spaces, what sets to call and what types of action we can run to best utilize all of our skillsets. Then we’re having those discussions over dinners and things like that to figure out how to continue to be great for each other. I think that’s what it takes. Zion is obviously a very great player. BI is a great player. For me, it’s about picking my spots, spacing, knocking down shots and being able to lead when I need to lead.”

New Orleans Pelicans' star duo Zion Williamson and Brandon IngramNew Orleans Pelicans' star duo Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram
New Orleans Pelicans’ star duo Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram

How do you think BI and Zion have grown this season?

CJ McCollum:

“They have a better understanding of their game and their bodies with what they need to do each day to be ready to play, when to rest and when to workout. Their IQ is continuing to improve as well as their decision making. They’re just playing their total games with scoring, rebounding and passing. Defensively, I think they have gotten better and have been more aggressive. The more they rebound on defense, the better we are on offense.”

Your numbers have been pretty efficient (19.4 points on 47.2% overall, career-high 43.7% from 3 and 4.6 assists per game) and it’s impacted winning. How do you think your game this season compares to your other 10 seasons?

CJ McCollum:

“It’s just me figuring out what the team needs and figuring out how to get better and improve in certain areas and utilizing my skillsets. I have a diverse skillset and am ready to play with different groups of people and with different teams. I’m being utilized in different ways. This season, I had to adjust my game with shooting more 3-pointers and moving off the ball more and my usage is the lowest it’s been since my second year in the league. So, I’m figuring out how to be impactful and how to do what’s necessary for our team. I think I’ve done that. I think that’s a credit to working hard, doing things the right way and treating people the right way.”

Griff [Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin] praised your offseason work. What did that look like compared to other summers?

CJ McCollum:

“I always work, man. I work every summer. I dedicate myself to my craft and sacrifice a lot for my family and everybody. This summer was the same. But the difference was that it was a longer summer because we lost so early. I rehabbed, and then I was in market. I didn’t have to move. I didn’t have a lot of stuff that I had to go through in the past summer. It was a stable environment for me. And we had an idea on what we wanted to accomplish conditioning wise and what we wanted to accomplish physically. I met my movement specialist, and we put a plan together to really attack our summer.

It was a lot of 3-pointers, a lot of conditioning and a lot of film. I’m happy with all that we were able to accomplish this summer. It’s transitioned well for me to be able to continue to have impact for my play on the court. It was pretty standard for me. Two-a-days and three-a-days. It was about understanding from a physical standpoint that I have rehab for my hand and shoulder a lot. There was a lot more weight-room stuff from a rehab standpoint instead of just lifting. We added in some VersaClimber. It was a standard summer for me with sled pushes, lots of shots and lots of cardio. I was in the gym working out two or three times a day. I watched film. That’s the same stuff I do every summer.

What’s the key to stay disciplined with all of those things, and to even relish it?

CJ McCollum:

“It’s about continuity. It’s about a schedule. It’s about challenging yourself and making goals. I look at the calendar and I plan my whole summer. I plan my off-days. I plan my workouts. I know when my two-a-days and my three-a-days are. I know when I’m going on family vacation. I got a really good team around me that helps me with organizing and structure my life in a way that’s efficient for me and efficient for what I care about most, and that is family, God and basketball.”

You’ve always been known as a pro for your whole career. But were there any significant turning points for you that made you realize why that structure is so important for you?

CJ McCollum:

“Basketball has always been the priority. But then you start having kids and having a family. Then you figure out how to do both things. When you get married, you figure out how to balance it. But I’ve always put the work first in terms of preparation and in terms of off-court activities. Work is always first. That’s how I provide and make a living for my family. So, I structure everything around that.”

BI has found it helpful with observing your regimen with how you take care of your body. What intentions do you have with trying to have your routine indirectly impacting the group?

CJ McCollum:

“That’s everything. More than my leadership vocally, they’re watching me on how I prepare each day and the consistency of my work, the consistency of my approach and the timing in which I do stuff. They can see, ‘He’s really on a schedule every day and has an understanding with what he wants to do.’ I’m still a father. I still have kids. I’m still married. But I’m still able to dedicate the right time to be good at those things. That shows, more than anything, that you can do other things, have other interests and still be successful at your sport as long as you dedicate the proper times. It’s been cool to watch them figure out their own routines and get their own groove. As I tell Z, all the time, ‘Just stack days.’ He’s doing that. I tell BI, he’s a guy that likes to work. But sometimes you got to rest. Rest your mind and rest your body. You’ll feel more rejuvenated.’ He’s been doing a good job with figuring out when to work out, when to get lifts in and when to rest. I’m just proud of their development and growth, and hope I can make a small impact in their lives in terms of giving them gems that I wish I had when I was their age.”

You had your partnership with Dame [Damian Lillard] in Portland. But who were the vets and players you admired from afar that helped with that?

CJ McCollum:

“My brother was very influential in my life in my development. I had Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Chris Kaman, Steve Blake, Earl Watson. I had a lot of good vets, so I can’t complain. Dame is my guy. I understand the relationship with him is different than the relationships I have with these guys due to their age. But I try to be as impactful as possible and be authentic in myself and leave this place better than where I found it. That’s the goal.”

You’ve always been about winning. But considering your body of work, how have you viewed not making an All-Star team yet?

CJ McCollum:

“Nah, the league is very competitive. There are a lot of great players. Somebody has to get the short end of the stick every year. Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes. A lot of good players don’t make it sometimes. For me, it’s been about playing at a high level and being consistent and impacting winning. I think I’m getting the best out of my talent, and I’m maximizing my skillset and my ability and my opportunities.”

To what extent has that at least been an individual goal, though?

CJ McCollum:

“You always want to be considered amongst the elite in your craft. I would say it’s definitely been a goal of mine since I was a kid. But it’s really just about maximizing your talents. I’m 32 years old. Those things don’t really bother me.”

I understand you’re going to launch a “Dream Center,” What can you share on what you’re doing with that?

CJ McCollum:

“I have partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs, and we have ‘Dream Centers’ in Oregon and we’re doing our first one in Louisiana. We should be done next month. I’m excited about that. There will be improvements from a technology standpoint, computers, culturally relevant books and providing opportunities for coding. We bring in guest speakers, people from different walks of life and professionals to teach and implement things that they haven’t been exposed to before. We provide different services and resources. We’re doing an outdoor library with a ‘Take a book; leave a book’ type of thing. We have a little garden. We’re making improvements amongst the community and spaces that are important to the kids that allow them to have safe spaces to learn, grow and evolve.

What do you expect this to accomplish overall?

CJ McCollum:

“I think it’s just creating a safe space for kids to learn and grow and creating opportunities for kids to be exposed to things they normally wouldn’t be exposed to and improving some of the areas and neighborhoods that really need it.”

I read about your new college scholarship program. You’ve also done things to help with juvenile justice system, food backs and youth journalism programs. Where does winning the NBA’s Community Assist award this season rank to your playing accomplishments?

CJ McCollum:

“It’s meaningful, it’s impactful and it’s showing that I’m making a difference in my community and I’m impacting lives. I’m trying to take advantage of some of the gifts that God has given me and some of the things that I’ve been exposed to. Those things mean the most to me with being able to leave the world a better place than when I found it. That’s extremely important to me. The end goals are picking things that I’m passionate about and that I care about and figure out ways to impact those sectors, whether it’s in education, criminal justice reform and juvenile justice. I’m really just figuring out how I can make an impact in those areas. Those are areas that have either impacted my life or the people around me. That’s really been my mentality, find an interest and figure out strategically how to attack those interests.”

Mark Medina is an NBA insider for Sportskeeda. Follow him on X, Instagram, Facebook and Threads.

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