CJ McCollum is no longer listed on the Portland Trail Blazers' injury report, clearing the way for the veteran guard to return to the lineup on Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. McCollum hasn't played since Jan. 16, when he suffered a fractured foot against the Atlanta Hawks. Originally it seemed as though he had escaped with just a sprain, but a subsequent MRI revealed a hairline fracture. This was the third foot fracture for McCollum in his career, so as he told The Athletic's Jason Quick in an interview Sunday, both he and the team have been as careful as possible with his recovery.
"I'm coming off my third fracture. I have to be smart and patient. I needed to see how my foot would respond to contact," he said. "People assume you get cleared and just go back to playing, not realizing I couldn't run for seven weeks. Conditioning comes from playing. I can't just run on the treadmill or bike and simulate the force you put through your foot and body."
Prior to getting hurt, McCollum was in the midst of the best season of his career, averaging 26.7 points and five assists per game, while shooting 44.1 percent from 3-point land -- all of which are career-highs. If it wasn't for the injury, he would have been a shoo-in for his first All-Star appearance.
Without him, the Blazers actually did pretty well, going 14-10 to climb up to fifth place in the Western Conference. After a somewhat disappointing start to the season, the Blazers are now in position to push on and potentially get a top-four seed, which would earn them homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They are still awaiting the recoveries of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, but McCollum's impending return will be just the boost they need for that mission.