The Moda Center crowd was on its feet, Trail Blazers second year player Zach Collins had just blocked Lonzo Ball at the rim, Nik Stauskas then pulled up for three-pointer – swish, it was 107-100 Blazers. And that’s when the Los Angeles Lakers called a timeout at the 7:22 mark in the 4th quarter.
Standing at 6’10” wearing a Trail Blazers shirt, a proud father stood among that Moda Center crowd. Sitting in the Blazers’ family section above Portland’s bench was Mike Collins showing off his muscles, flexing after his son’s fifth block of the night, while Zach’s mother Heather Collins cheered loudly.
Just as Zach has done all his life, he made sure to look up at his parents in the crowd.
“I did a couple times, that’s kind of what I've always done… It’s always good to have him there and my mom too. Whenever they’re here I always want to play well and now I get to hang out with them after the game, so it means a lot to me,” Collins said.
It was a special night in Portland with LeBron James and the Lakers in town, but it was also a night for Collins to show what he can do on the defensive end and having a career night vs. the Lakers made it a little extra special.
“Yes, especially on opening night to go out there, make an impact and help the team win against a good team and obviously they have the best player in the world so they’re obviously always going to be really good,” Collins said.
Collins finished with a career high six blocks to go along with six rebounds and six points in 26 minutes of action. He also had the best plus-minus of the team with a +24.
These questions come to mind when you watch Collins downlow-- Can he be the enforcer on this Blazers team? Can he be an elite defender? Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum believe so.
“I really loved what he did defensively. I think losing Ed in that second group we need somebody that’s going to be an enforcer and let teams know that you’re not just going to be able to come in our paint,” Lillard said.
“Zach was great. He protected the basket. He was fearless. He’s that guy at the rim every time contesting shots, altering shots, blocking shots and then allowing us to get out and run in transition off the rebound. I think he does a great job of contesting and we’ve talked about him being one of the better defenders in the NBA and he’s showing why he’s an elite defender,” McCollum said.
This Lakers team was no easy task for the young Collins either, just ask Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.
“Zach was really good defensively. He had a tough assignment guarding a three-point shooter and still protecting the rim. He’s a gamer. He enjoys the competition. He doesn’t shy away from contact or a challenge. He earned his minutes out there tonight” Stotts said.
Collins feels that playing to his strengths of protecting the rim is where he can help the Blazers the most and Lillard is pleased to see such growth from Collins.
“He had some big blocks. He challenged everything. It’s great to see that he’s taken that up a level. We thought he was really good last season, this season starting off tonight he had a great start defensively,” LIilard said.
Yes, it’s one game, but it was six blocks in one game.
And don’t forget about Pappa “Big Bear” Collins flexing his muscles in the crowd in this one game. That’s a lot for the Collins family in just one game.