CJ McCollum offers thoughts on new Sixers consultant Neil Olshey

New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) drives to the basket against Philadelphia 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle (22) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

New Orleans Pelicans star CJ McCollum isn’t in the prediction business. He has too much of a vested interest in who wins and loses the NBA championship, not to mention a huge bias.

When asked for his vote on the last team standing, McCollum delivered the scripted answer: “New Orleans Pelicans in The Finals against who cares.” Well played. Appropriate and on brand.

McCollum, a one-time trade target for the Philadelphia 76ers, recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Philly Sports Network. The sharp-shooting guard previewed the 2023-24 NBA season while dishing on how his old friend Damian Lillard’s blockbuster trade to Milwaukee shifted the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.

McCollum praises Bucks

Lillard and McCollum were backcourt mates in Portland for nine seasons. They shared a lot of laughs there — a lot of success mixed with equal amounts of heartbreak. Love it or hate it, the Bucks are going to be extremely dangerous as they pair Lillard with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“I think they’re going to be really good,” McCollum told me. “Looking at the top of their roster with Dame, Giannis, and how impactful they are on both sides of the ball. Dame being a juggernaut on offense. He can shoot the ball. He can run the pick and roll, then Giannis being able to protect the rim, being able to dominate the paint, draw fouls, and play MVP-caliber basketball. It’s going to be really, really fun to watch them.”

Fun for everyone except the Sixers who draw the Bucks in the season opener on October 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee. Head coach Nick Nurse likely won’t have James Harden in the starting five — controversies aside, prayers up for his ailing mother — so it’ll be extra important for Tyrese Maxey to set the pace and get the Sixers off to a sizzling start. The fourth-year guard out of Kentucky is a rising star, a guy whom McCollum has been forced to chase around the court in previous matchups.

“He’s explosive, good at pick and roll, high degree of difficulty on his pull-ups, pull-up threes, same for his running shots,” McCollum said. “He has elite speed and knows how to play with pace. I’m looking forward to a very good year for him. He’s a guy who watches film, studies the game, loves the game, and has a really, really bright future ahead of him.”

Neil Olshey: Talent Evaluator and Basketball Purist

The Sixers sneakily added Neil Olshey to the front office last week. He’ll serve as a personnel consultant while reporting to Daryl Morey and Elton Brand in an “open-ended” role (via Kyle Neubeck of PHLY).

Olshey had his fair share of ups and downs during his nine-year run as Trail Blazers GM but one area where he shined was talent evaluation. He was responsible for drafting CJ McCollum — No. 10 overall in 2013 — and Damian Lillard — No. 6 overall in 2012 — while building the foundation for a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2019. His Portland teams went 413-330.

“Neil’s a good dude. Neil drafted me. He’s a guy who loves the game,” McCollum said. “He’s a good talent evaluator. He’s able to assemble talent. He’s made the playoffs consistently throughout his career as a GM, not just for us [Portland] but for the Clippers as well. I joke with him that I’m going to name one of my dogs Neil because my family and I live quite the life based on the contracts we’ve been able to get from him.

“I think he’s just a good basketball spirit, a purist of the game that just loves it. Watches it. Studies it. Critiques it. I think he’s a huge value to add to that organization. They’re going to get someone who is passionate. He’s an East Coaster through thick and through thin, and I think he’ll be able to really relate to the passion of the fans.”

Pampers Swaddlers: Introducing the Blowout Barrier

CJ McCollum and his wife Elise are expecting their second child — a baby girl, first announced on September 17 via Instagram — and buying the right kind of diapers is a top priority. That is one reason why McCollum decided to partner with Pampers to promote their revamped Swaddlers line. Their innovative Blowout Barrier — “with a unique back waist cuff, front waistband and absorbent top sheet designed to help prevent diaper leaks,” according to a press release — has been a game-changer for the 32-year-old.

“I think at this stage of life that I’m in as an adult, as a father, you want to explore authentic situations that are real and that you can really relate to and this is something that I can really relate to because it’s definitely happened a bunch of times,” McCollum said, referencing two blowouts with his newborn son Jacobi.

“It was all a genuine partnership where I had some trouble with diapers in the past where we had some leaks — we had some blowouts, we had some shorts destroyed — and Pampers Swaddlers gave me a chance at 100% prevention and protection on leaks and blowouts so why not explore this? This is a great opportunity for me to improve my quality of life as well as the quality of life for my kids.”

Blowouts on the court? Well, that is a completely different story. McCollum did go off for 42 points against the Sixers in a game last season. He knocked down a franchise-record 11 three-pointers during a 127-116 victory. Unstoppable. The Pelicans and Sixers will run it back on November 29 at 8 p.m. in New Orleans.