CJ McCollum accurately predicted that one of his best friends both on and off the court was going to be traded from the only team he had ever played for.
The Portland Trail Blazers traded Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks last month after the seven-time All-Star finally requested to be moved.
The Trail Blazers have struggled since making the Western Conference Finals during the 2018-2019 season, missing out on the playoffs the past two seasons. Milwaukee is coming off a shocking first-round exit from the NBA playoffs in April when the Miami Heat eliminated them in five games.
“I hate that I had to be right,” McCollum joked when he recently spoke to Fox News Digital.
But it was just a ticking time bomb, Lillard’s former Portland teammate says, and a match made in heaven for both sides.
“I think it was a situation where it was time for him to kind of move on to a new situation. It was time for them to start the rebuild and start to acquire assets and younger players and kind of move on. Obviously, you’d like the situation to be handled a little bit better as to where it doesn’t become a public, but I feel like both parties won. Dame gets to go to a contender. They get Scoot [Henderson], they get some young players, they get Malcolm Brogdon, they get [Deandre] Ayton; they got Robert Williams, they draft another kid out of France, they can rock with Anfernee [Simmons], they got some really good pieces where they can kind of figure things out and still be competitive while building for the future. So, I think it was a great situation for everybody.”
As for Lillard, McCollum thinks he’s “excited” for a fresh start.
“He’s been able to play in a couple games with Giannis [Antetokounmpo], get [his] game legs underneath him, and really just trying to figure out how they can compete for a championship. I think he’s definitely excited about the prospects of competing in the East, there’s going to be a different schedule, he’s going to live in a different place, there’s a lot of changes for him and his family that he’s going to adjust to.”
Lillard was sent to the Bucks in a three-team trade with the Phoenix Suns. Portland acquired Jrue Holiday (who was quickly dealt to the Boston Celtics), Ayton, Toumani Camara, a 2029 unprotected Milwaukee first-round draft pick and unprotected Milwaukee swap rights in 2028 and 2030. The Suns landed Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson in the deal.
Lillard’s Bucks kick off the season next Thursday when they host the Philadelphia 76ers and defending NBA MVP Joel Embiid.