Having sneaky athleticism and a bulldog mentality on the defensive end can get a player into trouble.
More specifically, it can get Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins in trouble.
Collins went through a rough period during the beginning of the 2018-19 season where he was constantly picking up fouls.
“I went through a long stretch earlier in the year and I think I corrected that the rest of the way, but I try not to think about that stretch… It was definitely a tough stretch for me. It was something that I kind of had to learn when I could go after something and when I have a few fouls, just like, you can’t go crazy for the next few possessions. So, it was a learning experience for me and I definitely grew from it,” Collins said.
In just his second season in the NBA, Collins averaged 2.3 personal fouls in 77 games played at 17.6 minutes per game.
Averaging 2.3 personal fouls per game last season, ranked Collins fifth most on the Trail Blazers roster.
Yet looking at the total number of fouls for the season, Collins had the second most on the team with 174 fouls behind Jusuf Nurkic’s 250 personal fouls.
As Collins heads into his third season with Portland looking to have a bigger role and play more minutes, there could be more of an emphasis from the coaching staff to make sure Collins doesn’t pick up ticky-tack fouls, or at least limits those type of fouls.
It’s not as if Collins believes he isn’t getting enough respect from the officials on the defensive end.
“The best players in the world, the best refs in the world, the best coaches etc. and I don’t think it was a respect thing,” Collins said. “I think honestly there was a few times where maybe I got a few ticky-tack calls, but that piled on to the fouls that were fouls…, I always say that the fouls at the rim or if I’m going to block a shot I can live with those, I’ll take six of those all day, but it’s just the little ticky-tack ones where I’m being a little lazy or I’m out of position those are the ones I’ve got to correct.”
With Collins’ sneaky athleticism he had officials apologizing and admitting they, at times, had wrongfully called a foul.
“There were a couple of plays where I’d block a shot and the ref would come up to me and apologize to me and say, ‘well, you were so far away from the play, we didn’t think that you’d be able to get there, so it was a foul’.”
Collins went onto say, “which I understand… I don’t think it’s like a respect thing, but hopefully they’ll know me better and they’ll know that maybe I could get there this time.”
Despite the foul trouble, Collins feels that stretch wasn’t the most frustrating part for him last season.
It was a lack of playing time in the second half of the season.
“It’s always tough dealing with DNPs… Just getting use to that and making sure my habits stay consistent and not put my head down.” Collins said. “When you stay loyal to your habits and when you stay loyal to your routines. I mean, whether or not you play you’re always gonna be ready,” Collins said.
Now that Collins has turned 21 and has put two NBA seasons in the books, he reflected on how he has changed over the last two years.
“I would say I’m probably the same kid," Collins said. “In some ways I’ve matured a lot and I think I’ve kind of learned to be a little bit more patient. I’m always my biggest critic, and I think that’s something that I always kind of struggled with growing up being a little too hard on myself sometimes and I still find myself doing that, but that’s probably one thing that I made the most strides in, is giving myself a break here and there and learning to smell the roses every once in awhile. Just appreciate where I’m at and so in that regard, I think I’ve changed for the better a little bit, but I’m still the same goofy kid that hangs out with the same friends all the time.”
He may still be “the same kid” that grew up in the suburbs of Las Vegas, Nevada. Yet, that kid is more than likely about to earn a starting role in the NBA.
The assumption this season is that Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts will be starting Collins at power forward. That “same kid” could be staring in his first starting role since he was in high school. During his one year at Gonzaga University, Collins came off the bench.
Therefore, an adjustment period should be expected, just as Collins continues to adjust to how NBA referees officiate his game and vice-versa.