The NBA hiatus was a blessing in disguise for Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins.
The 2019-20 season, Collins' third season in the league, was supposed to be a season that saw Zach Collins starting at the four and him showcasing his improved patience on the defensive end while also taking a bigger leap forward in the scoring department as well.
But then, he played in just two and a half games, basically.
Rewind to Oct. 27th in the third game of the 2019-20 season when the Blazers visited the Dallas Mavericks. Collins got tangled up with Luka Doncic when they both went for a rebound with 2:01 left in the third quarter.
That’s when it happened. Collins came down holding his dislocated left shoulder.
The 7-footer shared an update on his shoulder during a Thursday Zoom call.
“It feels normal. It feels like a regular shoulder, so I’m good.”
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After some deliberation with team doctors and his family, Collins and the Blazers both decided it was best for Collins to have shoulder surgery when looking at the long-term plan of the young 21-year-old's career.
Collins had successful surgery to repair his left labrum on Nov. 5 and was then to be re-evaluated in approximately four months.
Now fast-forward through a nearly three-month NBA layoff and Collins has been cleared to play with an expectation that he won't have any minutes restriction either.
The shoulder feels great. No limitations. I have had no reason to believe that it will hold me back from doing anything. I feel pretty normal on the court like the surgery didn’t even happen, so I’m ready to go. -- Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins
Due to the COVID-19/NBA protocols, Collins and the rest of the Blazers have only been able to do individual workouts and thus Collins hasn’t gone through a full-contact workout yet. But, he has tested his shoulder in the weight room and with flexibility tests.
During his individual workouts, Collins says he has been getting up a lot of shots and working on his conditioning.
“Once we get to Orlando, hopefully we’ll hit the ground running and be as close to game shape as possible,” Collins added.
The 22 teams will travel to Orlando from July 7-9. Once teams are quarantined in the Walt Disney World bubble they will begin team practices during a three-week training camp.
Wednesday, Blazers coach Terry Stotts mentioned that Jusuf Nurkic is in the best shape that he’s seen from him over the past few years.
“I think physically, it’s the best I’ve seen [Nurkic] look,” Stotts said. “He has good muscle tone, he doesn’t look thin, he looks strong. I don’t know what his body-fat [percentage] is, but honestly, from a physical standpoint, it’s the best I’ve seen him.”
And if he does say so himself, Collins is feeling good about his body right now too.
I'm sitting between 245 and 250 pretty consistently every day. And that's, that's about where I was when I got injured. I was probably a little heavier when I got injured. I wasn't exactly in the best game shape yet, but I was probably the same. And now I'm sitting at 245 to 250. I feel a lot stronger everywhere... I definitely don't feel light or skinny or anything. I feel good. – Zach Collins
Heading into this season, with the Trail Blazers planning on starting Collins at power forward, he was all-in on that plan.
And now with Trevor Ariza opting out of going to Orlando, the expectation is Carmelo Anthony will move over to the starting small forward role.
That leaves the four spot open for Collins.
“If I do play a lot at the four, it’s going to be a lot more perimeter orientated,” Collins said last summer. “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.”
Let the big summer of Big Z begin.