Don’t put a label on Zach Collins, even if the assumption is Collins will start at power forward this upcoming season.
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts will have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to his rotation, but what he does with his starting lineup is most intriguing. Portland traded small forward Maurice Harkless and did not re-sign free agent power forward Al-Farouq Aminu. And with all of the new faces sporting the pinwheel next season, how they'll blend together will be paramount.
Collins’ mindset has not changed, however, despite the free agency moves.
“If I do play a lot at the four, it’s going to be a lot more perimeter orientated… I never really want to get away too much from being inside and being effective inside. But, if I can find playing time at the four, then I’m all for it, and I’m going in and I’m going to attack that and try to be the best four I can be. If I’m the five, same thing,” Collins said.
The third-year player made it clear: He does not want to be labeled.
“I think that’s something that makes me unique, is that I can try to do a little bit of both. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m prepared to do the four and five,” Collins said.
For the Blazers captain Damian Lillard, he’s excited about Collins, as well as second year guard Anfernee Simons.
“I’m excited about Zach. Zach and Ant, I think these guys have a huge summer in front of them... They can really be what can make us take that next step, especially with what we’ve added,” Lillard said at his annual kids basketball camp last week.
For Collins and his huge summer, he is focusing on getting his body where he wants it to be.
The 21-year-old stayed in Portland for a month immediately after the season concluded to continue his workouts. He admits he did give himself a couple of weeks off, but his schedule has since returned to a similar, but more refined version of what he has done in the last two offseasons.
“Just come in in the morning and lift and then workout on the court or vice versa. Then, in the afternoon, just do active recovery, like yoga, or do some extra cardio or do something like that just to continue to stay in shape, whether that be extra shots here and there or whatever,” Collins said.
Collins came into the league listed at 215 pounds. Although, Big Z begs to differ. “I’m going to give myself 220,” he said. For Collins to progress in the NBA, he knew he'd have to put on weight.
But, it's about having a well-rounded approach to adding pounds, and not adding it too quickly.
“The most important thing for me is to get my body right in the weight room and then translate that to the court. So, dribbling, shooting, making moves isn’t really affected by the weight,” Collins said.
The 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft has a strict diet this summer.
“A lot of protein,” Collins smiled when talking about his diet. “Obviously trying to eat at least four or five times a day. I got a chef before last season to come in and make me some meals before and after games, just so I’m getting the right amount of calories in and getting protein… just to stay consistent with it.”
“I think 250 [pounds] is a good goal to come in at and start the season – between 250 and 255,” Collins added. “I think that’s very realistic. I’ve already put on four or five [pounds] since the season ended.”
Besides Collins’ chef, two others have played a major role in his consistent development this offseason.
Collins was quick to give accolades to Trail Blazers Sports Performance Specialists Todd Forcier and Ben Kenyon.
“I think we have one of the best, if not the best strength coaches in the league in Todd and Ben Kenyon. They’re just really proactive… They embrace old school methods with new school methods, and they’re never opposed to trying new things, and they’re always looking for a better way to do something. So, working with guys like that every day has been a huge part of my development,” Collins said.
Forcier concluded his ninth season with the Trail Blazers in 2018-19, while Kenyon completed his sixth season with the Blazers in 2018-19.
The two are big on recovery time.
“You can always say just ‘go, go, go’ but [Ben and Todd] are huge on recovery,” Collins said. “They’re huge on having days where even if you’re in the weight room, you’re not going heavy, you’re going mobility. So just working with that staff consistently and making sure that I’m eating right has been huge for me.”
Collins has been keeping in touch with Forcier over text messages this summer.
The Blazers’ trainers have also made sure Collins is not putting on weight too quickly.
“They understand that you can’t just throw on 10 pounds in two weeks and expect to feel good on the court. It’s all about putting strength on, not just weight and being able to still do what I do, which is use my feet, use my quickness,” Collins said.
Collins, the power forward or center, is taking his summer seriously for a big 2019-20 season.