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NBA Beat: Blazers’ McCollum shares journalistic passion with students

Portland guard C.J. McCollum, center, drives to the basket between Boston forward Amir Johnson, left, and center Jared Sullinger during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Boston.
Portland guard C.J. McCollum, center, drives to the basket between Boston forward Amir Johnson, left, and center Jared Sullinger during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Boston. The Associated Press

C.J. McCollum isn’t the kind of NBA player who gives media members the constant side eye.

Had he not been one of the best outside shooters in college basketball at Lehigh, he might be going to games with a press pass and not as a starting guard for the Portland Trail Blazers.

In something that might irk some of his contemporaries, McCollum is helping mold more sports journalists through CJ’s Press Pass, a joint venture with McCollum and Madison High School’s journalism club.

McCollum wanted to promote literacy in the Portland area while combining his many media-related interests. McCollum, who hosted Journalism Night in January, has introduced students to media and given them opportunities through his show on iHeartRadio and The Players Tribune, an athlete-run website.

“They’re starting to figure out what they like, don’t like and how they can utilize that in the future,” McCollum said.

McCollum majored in journalism at Lehigh.

“I actually started in the business school,” he said. “It was just too much math. I didn’t want to sit at a cubicle and go through that, and when I was younger I figured out I was pretty good at writing and I liked to talk, so put it together.”

Being a first-round pick helped McCollum delay his media ambitions.

In his third season, his playing time has more than doubled, and he’s responded by averaging 20.7 points after scoring 6.8 last season.

With Portland having gone from an expected lottery team to a possible top-five finish in the Western Conference, McCollum should receive consideration for Most Improved Player.

Still, McCollum manages to feed his journalism habit.

“I’ll cover the draft again, interview (Commissioner) Adam Silver, the NBA Finals, all that stuff,” McCollum said.

McCollum could have a long NBA career. Paired with Damian Lillard, he’s part of one of the league’s best scoring backcourts.

But McCollum believes he will be a full-time journalist someday.

“I would fare well, but I don’t know that I want to do the journalism per se where I go to all the games after I play,” McCollum said. “I don’t know if I want to travel that much. I could do more analysis, recaps, sit in the studio, maybe something from that perspective.”

Trending up

It was great to see former Kings coach Keith Smart at Friday’s game with the Miami Heat.

Smart, an assistant with Miami, has been away from the team undergoing treatment for a rare form of skin cancer that he said now has a 1-in-500 chance of returning following radiation treatment.

The NBA often has its coaches and staff wear pins for various causes. Smart, who hopes to return to the bench for the postseason, said anything related to cancer takes on new meaning.

Smart coached the Kings during turbulent times, including the talk of moving to Seattle. But he’s also loved and respected by most who have worked with him.

Smart has a lot of people cheering him on as he recovers.

Trending down

The Philadelphia 76ers have to win one more game.

In a season where the Golden State Warriors are on the verge of setting a record with 73 wins, the Sixers could match the worst season in NBA history with 73 losses.

That distinction is held by the 1972-73 Philadelphia squad.

This season’s Sixers are on an 12-game losing streak and have a 9-68 record.

Last words

“Maybe a cup of coffee. Maybe.”

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to reporters when asked what his team’s 38-0 home record was worth. It historical terms, it’s worth an NBA record for home wins to start a season.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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