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Pelicans acquire McCollum in seven-player trade with Blazers

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The New Orleans Pelicans acquired guard CJ McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a seven-player trade on Tuesday that comes as the Pelicans make a push to qualify for the NBA postseason.

“It’s going to elevate our group,” Pelicans first-year coach Willie Green said on Tuesday night. “CJ has seen it all. He’s been in the league for a decade, (he’s) been to a conference championship. He’s won at extremely high levels. He’s a pro, and we need guys like him to elevate on the court. So we’re excited. I’m excited. He’s excited.”

The Pelicans also received forwards Larry Nance Jr and Tony Snell in the deal, while the Trail Blazers get forward Josh Hart, and guards Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Didi Louzada, as well as draft compensation in the form of a 2022 protected first-round draft choice and two future second-rounders.

The trade marks the end of an era in Portland, where McCollum has been paired with Damian Lillard in the backcourt since 2013. Portland has reached the playoffs every season since they drafted McCollum. However, the Blazers struggled in the postseason, reaching the Western Conference finals only once while being eliminated in the first round five times.

The 30-year-old McCollum is averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds this season.

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum drives against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kenrich Williams in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City. PHOTO: AP

He gives the Pelicans a needed outside shooting threat and overall reliable scorer at a time when New Orleans appears to be on the upswing – despite playing this season without star forward Zion Williamson. After starting one to 12, the Pelicans (22-32) have climbed into the final play-in spot in the Western Conference with the help of their current four-game winning streak.

Williamson, incidentally, has been in Oregon trying to rehabilitate from offseason surgery to repair his fractured right foot. It is unclear if he will be ready to return this season.

The Pelicans are making less than 33 per cent from three-point range this season and they are 29th in the league in three-pointers made. McCollum has shot no less than 37.5 per cent from beyond the arc every season of his career, while shooting 38.4 per cent overall for his career.

“I’m very hyped,” Pelicans centre and power forward Jaxson Hayes, who is in his third NBA season, said of playing with McCollum. “I’ve been watching him since I was little, so that’s going to be really fun for me.”

In 2019, McCollum signed a three-year contract extension worth USD100 million that runs through the 2023-24 season. It took effect this season.