One of the major things that separates the Portland fan base and other fan bases around the league is just the amount of love they have for the players of the Blazers’ organization. Even in the middle of the summer, hundreds of fans line up for the opportunity to snap a picture, shake the hand, or get an autograph from one of the beloved players.
Thursday evening was no different as the line at the downtown Portland Banana Republic started forming before 4:30 p.m. for a meet and greet with C.J. McCollum that wouldn’t start until 6:30.
McCollum, partnered with Banana Republic, were there to introduce the Rapid Movement Chino. As part of the Banana Republic Men’s Style Council, McCollum is one of the tastemakers that showcase the brand’s versatility, quality and performance-driven menswear.
Before the event opened to the public, I had the chance to catch up with McCollum about his summer, his trip to Africa, and more.
Garrett Thornton (GT) – So C.J., how has your summer been?
C.J. McCollum (CJ) – It’s been well, I’ve enjoyed it. It’s gone really fast, I’ve done a lot of traveling, a lot of different things, but it’s been fun.
GT – How was Africa? What did you learn from that experience?
CJ – I learned a lot. I learned about the culture, I learned about the foods, the people, and the hunger they have for the sport in general. They love basketball, they wanna get better, they wanna learn more about it. I think it was evident in the Basketball Without Borders with the kids and how well they played. From a culture standpoint, just being in some of the different villages working with UNICEF, working with Habitat for Humanity we got a better understanding and appreciation for the work that those organizations do.
GT – It’s great to see a representative of Rip City over there. So, we’ve seen a different C.J. and a different Damian this summer when it comes to recruiting free agents and Carmelo. Is that here to stay? Is that the new attitude moving forward?
CJ – I think we just want whatever it takes to win, honestly. That’s how I approach it, and that’s how Dame approaches it. If someone is gonna make us a better team, put us in position to get that much closer to being a Finals team, a championship caliber team, then we’ll do whatever it takes.
GT – Fans and the media make a lot of the schedule release. As a player, what do you think when the schedule comes out? What are your initial thoughts?
CJ – I get a little anxiety just because there are so many games in such a short period of time. So just planning wise, trying to plan my schedule, trying to plan to sleep and kinda get back into understanding that you may have 17-18 games in a month, you may have back-to-backs, four-in-five nights, you may have a swing where you go from Golden State to Miami. So there is a lot of different things that go into it and the thought process for it.
GT – Is there a game that stuck out to you when you first looked at the schedule?
CJ – The only thing I circle is the first game of the season so I know the date, October 18th.
GT – Against Phoenix, that’ll be a good one. So you won the Most Improved Player of the Year Award two years ago. There’s been some speculation, some articles written that maybe Jusuf Nurkic could take that step this year. What do you think the big guy has to do to reach that next level in his career and be worthy of the Most Improved Player Award?
CJ – I think he’s just gotta continue to work. That’s what he’s done all summer. He’s done a great job of taking care of his body, rehabbing, putting himself in a position that when camp starts he’s ahead of the curve. He’s obviously got the talent, he has the athletic ability, he’s got the knowledge, he just has to stay healthy and put it all together. The sky’s the limit for him. He’ll make a huge difference for us, playing in our system for a full season.
GT – Do you have any personal goals for yourself going into the season?
CJ – I think I just want to get better, honestly. That’s the biggest thing. Just get better, figure out ways to become more efficient, figure out ways to be a better leader and a better defender.
GT – Awesome. So tell me a little bit about your relationship with Banana Republic and what we’re doing here today.
CJ – We have a great relationship. As of right now we’re launching the Rapid Movement Chino and continue to try to put that out there. As a member of the Style Council, just try to get feedback, try to be brand ambassadors and people who help elevate the brand. Help give critiques on how the pants feel for us, how versatile they can be for us, and how to dress them up.
GT – Great C.J., I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me. Well Rip City, if you wanna be like C.J. McCollum you have to get yourself a pair of Rapid Movement Chinos.
CJ – Yep. I appreciate it. Thanks.