The Portland Trail Blazers paid center Festus Ezeli big money last summer to be a force under the rim, but right now all he seems to be good for is trying to provide some uplifting comments in the locker room when things are not going well. Unfortunately, those messages are not being received in a positive fashion in Portland.
With Ezeli potentially out for the year with bad knees, he has largely been unable to become more a part of the team other than as a cheerleader from the bench. Though he has tried to get his teammates motivated, Ezeli was recently cut off in the middle of a pep talk by C.J. McCollum, according to a report from ESPN.com.
After suffering a challenging, 115-107 loss to Milwaukee, Ezeli, in street clothes, addressed the team in the locker room with a stern speech centered on playing with urgency, sources told ESPN. Then two games later, after a crushing defeat in Memphis, Ezeli once again started giving a team speech, but he was cut short.
McCollum interrupted Ezeli in midsentence and told him that was enough, sources told ESPN. Portland was in the midst of an emotionally draining December, losing 11 of 13 games. Players were desperately pouring out every ounce of effort trying to change the trajectory of the season, and being lectured by someone who wasn’t even playing wasn’t received favorably.
Though Ezeli may be coming from a commendable standpoint, it can be difficult to hear messages like the ones he was trying to convey when they’re coming from the new guy on the roster, someone who has yet to leave an impact on the court. Ezeli is in street clothes while others are playing and struggling. Leadership roles are not always purchased, even by guys with an NBA championship ring. Sometimes they have to be molded from within.