Al-Farouq Aminu

Trail Blazer defense wasn't good enough to erase THAT offensive show

Trail Blazer defense wasn't good enough to erase THAT offensive show

MINNEAPOLIS – Defense has been a proud possession of the Portland Trail Blazers in this early part of the season.

But it wasn’t good enough Friday night to make up for a woeful offensive performance by the Trail Blazers that resulted in a wire-to-wire 112-96 Timberwolves’ win over Portland.

The Blazers’ starting lineup went 3-18 from three-point range. The team total was just 8-29. Put that together with 18 turnovers that resulted in 22 points.

This game was decided in the first half, when Portland had 13 of those turnovers for 18 points and allowed eight offensive rebounds.

That set a tone – and a 12-point deficit – that was impossible to overcome in the final two quarters.

“The first half was frustrating because of our turnovers and the offensive rebounds,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “We gave them too many opportunities. We dug the hole in the first half because of that.”

Al-Farouq Aminu, who did an outstanding defensive job on Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, offered some wisdom on the evening’s outcome.

“In these types of games we have to do better defensively,” he said. “I don’t want to be the kind of team just relying on our offense. We have to take it to another level on defense when we have trouble on offense.

“We have to make it a defensive battle. We have to play defensive games as well as offensive games.”

Well said.

Minnesota shot 50 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range.

“We allowed them to have second or third opportunities,” Damian Lillard said.  “Our offense wasn’t going for us. You can’t hurt yourself by giving them extra opportunities but that’s what we did. The offensive rebounds and we turned the ball over.”

Lillard, who is still playing with a right knee that isn’t 100 percent, made only 1 for 7 from three-point range. Very often, players suffering from knee troubles have a problem with outside shooting, because getting adequate lift on their shot from deep is difficult off sore knees.

But Lillard wouldn’t even consider using that as an excuse.

“I am not going there,” he said sternly. “When I was shooting, it felt fine.”

Evan Turner, who went scoreless in 21 minutes, was asked to sum up the game.

“It was tough,” he said. “We didn’t get our pop going. They scored a lot on the second opportunities. Stuff just wasn’t going our way. They went on a great run and played a great game tonight.

“I don’t think it will be something that will stay like that. We’ll get back to getting stops and getting into transition. It will be all good.”

And the next chance to make it all good will be Sunday in Washington against the Wizards.

Surprise, surprise: Lakers supporting cast causes fits for Trail Blazers' defense

Surprise, surprise: Lakers supporting cast causes fits for Trail Blazers' defense

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James did LeBron James things. You expect that and you can live with that many games.

But when Lonzo Ball, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope do things they don’t normally do, you’ve got a problem.

And the Trail Blazers had several problems Wednesday night in Staples Center when LeBron and his Lakers hung a 126-117 loss on Portland.

James hit five of his six three-point attempts and scored 44 points on 19 shots, along with gathering 10 rebounds and nine assists. He also passed Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time NBA scoring list.

“Anybody – when they’re hitting (three-point) shots like that, they are tough to guard,” said Portland’s Al-Farouq Aminu, who had the responsibility of chasing James around most of the game. “It’s the same with Dame. It’s a different complexity when somebody’s so good at getting to the rim and then they hit shots that well. It makes it tough.

“A lot of guys from their team stepped up, though. They made some big shots. Those guys played well, too.

“Trying to lock in on LeBron, he’s such a good passer, it makes it difficult. And with the veteran pieces they have, like (Rajon) Rondo, they understand the game and they get the most out of their supporting cast.”

The Trail Blazers were done in by their defense. Offensively, they were not at their best but 117 points and 42.4 percent shooting from three-point range should be good enough to win most games.

But the Lakers got 20 points, two steals and two blocked shots from McGee, who made life miserable in the paint for Portland’s penetrators.

And Caldwell-Pope knocked down three of his four three-point attempts en route to 13 points.

Heck, even the notoriously poor-shooting Ball got into the act, making three of five from three-point range, where the Lakers shot 46.9 percent.

The Trail Blazers took a 13-point lead in the first quarter but James began to heat up from the outside and Los Angeles had a four-point lead by halftime.

Portland Coach Terry Stotts wasn’t pleased with his team’s defense.

“We just couldn’t quite get over the hump in the second half,” he said. “Lebron had a dominant performance. When he’s making his threes and putting his head down (driving to the hoop) it’s tough to guard.

“Offensively, we did a good job most of the game. We passed the ball well, we made our threes early. Offensively it was a good night for us.

“We couldn’t get over the hump defensively.”

Portland gave up 50 points in the paint, a high number.

“A lot of those paint points are probably transition. We gave up too much transition.”

This was just Game 1 of a six-game road trip for the Trail Blazers and the mission now is not to let the hangover from this one cost another game or two.

Game 2 is Friday night in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves.

Riding the Wave: Will contagious momentum help the streaking Trail Blazers on the road?

Riding the Wave: Will contagious momentum help the streaking Trail Blazers on the road?

After a 100-94 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday night, Portland is now riding its longest winning streak of this young season with four straight victories.  The Blazers also concluded this six-game homestand with an impressive 5-1 record.

“We’re playing with confidence and poise… You gotta win close games in this league. I think winning close games over the course of your season, makes the difference of how you look back at your season,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said postgame. 

NBA games are always known for one team going on a run and then the other team will go on a big run and momentum swings in a blink of an eye. But does the momentum of a four-game winning streak mean a lot to Trail Blazers leader Damian Lillard?

“I think the biggest thing is just feeling good about yourself and feeling good about what you’re doing and if we winning games and you know things are happening guys are less likely to be worried about, well… this didn’t happen and this didn’t happen, you’re just kind of like, well allright, what I’m doing for the team is working. It’s just a matter of how long you can sustain that,” Lillard said.

It was a big night for the Chief Al- Farouq Aminu on Sunday. Aminu finsished with 11 points and nine rebounds in the win against Boston, yet, it was his two clutch three-pointers down the stretch that people will still be talking about when they look back at this game.

Momentum swings might mean the most for Aminu and his gratitude for it dates back to his grade schools days.

“I remember in AAU when I was young, my coach use to tell me, like, because I was the main player on the team, you're in charge of the people’s emotions, you know what I mean, like if you get a win, you’ll see after the game everybody’s happy, everybody’s spirited is lifted. If you get a losses and you’re not working hard and things like that, everybody’s spirit is down, everybody’s not as excited and different things like that so that’s also what winning does—it becomes contagious… Aminu said.

With the victory, Portland also ended a three-game losing streak to Boston.

Evan Turner, a former Celtic, realizes how important momentum is, but as a veteran on this team, Turner points out that you should never be riding a rollercoaster of emotions.

“Obviously everthing feels great after a win, just like everything feels great after making a shot. You know, momentum’s a big thing, but I think the mental capacity of it, I think as you get older—You can never get too high or too low… So we also comprehend that nothing’s guaranteed, we really have to go out and you know prepare the right way, play the game the right way, play with integrity and come prepared,” Turner said. 

Blazers now get set to embark on a six-game, 10-day trip with stops at the Los Angeles Lakers, Minneapolis, Washington, New York, Milwaukee and Golden State.

Taking your winning ways on the road is what separates good teams from great teams and the Trail Blazers know how important it is to keep the winning energy alive.

“Going on a tough six-game day road trip you’ve got to ride the wave, take advantage of this momentum at home and try to replicate that on the road,” McCollum said.  

“It's way better to go on the road with four wins than anything else, but how this team thinks even is if we come off a loss, we’re confident to think the next game is going to be a win… We play a type of game where it’s not like if the tide will turn, it’s when the tide will turn,” Turner said.

Confidence and trusting each other have been two key components to the Trail Blazers keeping the momentum rolling.

“To continue to bring good energy, that’s why you want to continue to work so hard, so that you can keep this energy and momentum going,” Aminu said.    

But, don’t think for a second that the Trail Blazers aren’t thinking about how easily they could’ve gone undefeated on this homestand after the Blazers’ comeback to the Lakers fell just short last Saturday, 114-110.

“It’s always good to win at home, especially going on a road trip so we’re happy about how we played, obviously we’d like to get that Laker game back and go 6-0 during the homestand,” McCollum said. 

Good thing the Blazers can test out this good momentum vs. the Lakers on Wednesday with the first game of the trip.

That works out nicely.

Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is the app for everything Blazers: games, highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

Trust among teammates: Aminu (wait, who?) drains late threes to sink Celtics

Trust among teammates: Aminu (wait, who?) drains late threes to sink Celtics

OK, go down the list of Trail Blazer players you’d like to have take a critical three-point shot late in a close game against the Boston Celtics.

I’m not sure how far down the list you’ve gotten by now, but unless you watched Sunday night’s game in Moda Center, I’m guessing you still haven’t gotten to Al-Farouq Aminu.

The Portland power forward is a defensive specialist who spends most of his time chasing some of the best offensive basketball players in the world around the court.

As a shooter, well, he’s improving. And we know by now his teammates certainly trust him.

Last season he made 36.9 percent of his threes, which brought his career three-point shooting up to 33.6 percent. This season, he went into Sunday’s game against the Celtics shooting 34.2 percent from long range.

That brings us to the waning minutes of Portland’s 100-94 win over Boston. It was a one-point Blazer lead when Damian Lillard found Aminu wide open beyond the arc with 2:34 to play.

Aminu set himself, let fly and swished it clean to hike the Portland lead to 95-91.

But he wasn’t done.

With exactly a minute to go, Lillard found Aminu again, this time from deeper, and he drilled another three to push the lead to 100-94.

Two critical makes from a man who had been 1-5 in the game from three-point range prior to those shots. And if you listened to the whispers in the Boston locker room after the game, he wasn’t open by accident.

If you aren’t a big-time shooter in those situations, you aren’t expected to make big-time shots.

“The first one -- they were really attacking from the weak side,” said Lillard. “They were leaving the weak side wide open and making sure we weren’t hitting the ‘big’ – so the first one, I threw it out to him and he rose up with confidence. Once I saw the quality of that make, I was like ‘He’s feeling good about his shot tonight.’

“So the next one, they shrunk again, he was the play and he was a little deeper than usual, but when he rose up with that confidence, I felt good about it just watching him take the shot. And he knocked down another one.”

And Aminu seemed flattered to have the opportunity to take the game in his hands.

 “Man, it feels good when your teammates trust you,” Aminu said. “I feel like the trust this year has been amazing. It’s been good since I’ve been here but this year, especially, it’s been good. We trust each other in all situations, the beginning of the game and the end of the game.

“The second one WAS deep. I was just praying it wouldn’t do any of that rattle-in-and-rattle-out because it felt great.”

Aminu likes to put pressure on himself when shooting threes in practice. And those three-point games at the end of practice often include the usual trash-talking and taunts among teammates.

“It’s hard to simulate what’s going to happen in games but you want to have some jitters when you’re taking those (practice) shots,” he said. “I’ve never liked random shooting where you’re just getting them up.

“I feel like, for me personally, that doesn’t do me any good. For every shot, I want my stomach to feel a little tight. That competition of trying to win is able to translate.”

And translate it did, Sunday night.

Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is the app for everything Blazers: games, highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

The Chief, a Prince and a Father: Al-Farouq Aminu joins The Scoop Podcast

The Chief, a Prince and a Father: Al-Farouq Aminu joins The Scoop Podcast

The Chief, Al-Farouq Aminu, has arrived on this week’s Scoop Podcast. We cover a variety of topics including: 

- Many stories about how much he and his older brother of three years, Alade Aminu, took it at each other on the basketball court and he is grateful for what his brother has taught him over the years.

- His “Never get too high, never get too low” mantra 

- You probably know that Aminu comes from a family of Nigerian Kings (which literally makes him a Prince)... But, It wasn’t until a few years ago that Aminu learned just how important his grandfather was to the history of Nigeria. I get the whole story on the Aminu family legacy during this interview. 

- The Chief answers the big question: How has having a daughter changed his life?
(Spoiler Alert: Aminu feels that having a daughter is easier than having a son after seeing how adventurous his nephews have been over the years.)

- Plus, we get the lowdown and what blocking a superstar like LeBron James feel like!

It's all that and more on this week’s Scoop Podcast:

Scoop Journal: Who knew Aminu’s family had a street named after them in Nigeria? 

Scoop Journal: Who knew Aminu’s family had a street named after them in Nigeria? 

Welcome to The Scoop Journal, where every week I empty my notebook of wide-ranging Trail Blazer thoughts, observations and randomness. I hope you enjoy this light-hearted weekly blog...

November 7th, 2018

Dear Scoop Journal,

The Trail Blazers are off to their best start through their first 10 games since the 2014-15 season and with that there is so much to talk about. Also, there’s a lot that I want to remember about this past week now that Portland holds an 8-3 record, so I'm ready to jot down my latest Trail Blazers thoughts and notes.

*Portland’s depth has been one of the biggest storylines of the season so far with the additions of Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry, but the improvement of Zach Collins and with Evan Turner running point forward this Blazers’ second unit has proved it's no joke.

*Collins has made a big leap in his sophomore season in stats thus far -- from a bettter field goal percentage to more points and more blocks.

(NOTE TO SELF COME BACK TO THIS LATER IN THE SEASON) --->Here’s a quick comparison of Collins’ stat line:

Through 11 games Collins is averaging:

10.6 ppg, shooting 57.7% from the field, and shooting 83.3% from the free throw line.

2017-18 season:

5.3 ppg, shot 43.3% from the floor, and shot 72.2% from the charity stripe. 

*Collins has also upped his average on blocks from .5 to 1.5 blocks and Blazer fans at Moda Center are loving what they've seen out of the Blazer backup.

*Having a day to think about the Blazers win over the Bucks, I’m still feeling bad for Bucks rookie Donte DiVincenzo after CJ McCollum crossed him over like he did. Seriously, that poor dude.

*I’m pretty stoked about The Scoop Podcast with this week’s guest Al-Farouq Aminu. It’s dropping on Friday. We talked about how having a daughter has changed his life and his family’s legacy of Nigerian Kings.
*Who knew that Aminu’s family had a street named after them in Nigeria? 

Blazers' strengths turn into weaknesses and they fall to Lakers

Blazers' strengths turn into weaknesses and they fall to Lakers

All season long the big story for the Trail Blazers has been their three-point shooting and bench. That was the story again Saturday night in Moda Center but in not exactly the same way.

When your strength becomes your weakness it’s pretty hard to handle. And there was no way Portland was going to overcome the double whammy of its three-point shooting dipping to 17.1 percent on 35 attempts and their bench getting outscored 51-26.

Stuff happens. And in this game, plenty of stuff happened. Crazy stuff. Hard-to-explain stuff.

The Lakers beat the Blazers for the first time since March 3, 2014 – Saturday's was a 114-110 game that saw Portland trail 95-75 with 9:49 to go before a frantic late comeback.

And by now, you’ve probably figured out that the NBA’s plus-minus system keeps track of the points scored for and against a team while a player is on the court. And, well, the ENTIRE Los Angeles starting lineup finished in the minus category, including LeBron James, who finished a team-high minus-22.

Of course, the Los Angeles bench all finished big in the plus-minus, led by Rajon Rondo, who was plus-28, with 10 rebounds, six assists and 17 points on 8 of 10 shots from the field. He was outstanding.

The Portland bench was a mess of minus, going a 2-14 from three with nine of the team’s 14 turnovers.

“It was a good comeback, came up a little short, obviously,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “It was one of those nights shooting the threes. I thought we had a lot of good looks that didn’t drop. It’s one of those games.

“Rajon Rondo was the difference maker. At one point his plus-minus was like 36. Their second unit came in and made a difference in the first half. Our second unit couldn’t really get on track in either half.”

It’s such a cliché when you talk about living by the three and dying by it – but this game was a classic case of Portland just not making enough clean looks from distance to change the final outcome.

“That’s how we play,” said Evan Turner, the leader of Portland’s second unit. “Obviously, we need to do a better job of taking care of the ball. They went on their run and we weren’t able to answer it back. But that’s how we play.

“Defense. You’ve got to play defense. We’ve got to play defense – get stops and get out in transition.”

One Blazer player played solid defense.

Al-Farouq Aminu did a first-class job on James all night long but, of course, that’s a thankless job. And getting a fair shake on the foul calls is a difficult task against James, too.

“It’s hard,” he said. “But it comes with the challenge of guarding a player like that. You expect it. I see Dame get some calls sometimes. You’re not trying to be bias – sometimes Dame gets calls because he deserves it.

“When you put that much pressure, when you’ve got that many shots, things like that, you earn those calls. It just goes along with the pressure they’re trying of trying to stop players like that.”

Aminu thought he got an offensive foul on LeBron in the second quarter but came down the next time and capped a James’ short jumper, a clean block that nevertheless left James begging for a foul call.

“It felt good, man,” Aminu said. “The play before I thought I got offensively fouled. It had their bench chirping a little bit. Rondo, we used to play together, was talking. So to get that block and quiet them up a little was good.”

Stotts said, “I thought ‘Chief’ did a really good job on him, as well as you can do on LeBron. I thought he made him work. He had good position on a lot of his drives, so we couldn’t ask for more from ‘Chief.’”

The Blazers got 30 points apiece from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum but they combined to go just 4-17 from three. Seth Curry’s brother, Steph, made the trip to Portland to watch him play in person and would do well to stay away in the future.

Seth went 0-5 from the field and 0-4 from three.

But it was that kind of night for many Portland players, whose brothers probably were probably home watching on TV.


Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is the app for everything Blazers: games, highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

Up close and personal with an old-school player -- "The Chief"

Up close and personal with an old-school player -- "The Chief"

TUALATIN – He hasn’t gotten a lot of attention during his three seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.

He hasn’t given many interviews and when he’s done them, he hasn’t exactly been full of charm or information.

Al-Farouq Aminu fully admits that.

“I used to give people a lot of one-word answers… and things like that,” he said with a smile in an after-practice interview Thursday.

An interview with "The Chief"? Yes. A long and enlightening one.

“It’s not what I’m comfortable with,” he said. “I’m comfortable playing basketball.. I just always thought the media was supposed to be the enemy. That’s how it was portrayed when I was growing up. But now… everybody’s the media.”

And things change. People change. Aminu has been doing some homework.

“I started watching more interviews,” he said. “Not to get better at them but just because I like them. I think that’s helped me a lot – just seeing a lot of interviews and seeing how people are able to talk.”

And in a long and revealing conversation, Aminu admitted to being a bit of an old-school guy – as you might expect from a player who puts defense first and doesn’t go around trying to draw attention to himself.

For instance, following up on a story I was told, I asked him if is true he doesn’t have a television in his house.

“Oh, I have one,” he said. “But I don’t have cable, though.”

Ouch. That hurt. No cable?

“I grew up with one TV,” he said. “My mom never liked TVs in the home. My mom always thought – and I think, as well – it separates the family. When everybody has a TV in their own room they just stay in their own room. It kind of isolates you.

“We only have one and we don’t keep it on. We don’t usually have a remote. When we watch something, we usually just watch a movie. We watch the movie and then turn (the TV) off.”

But what about when his teammates are sitting around talking about the league’s favorite show, “Game of Thrones”?

“I watch my shows,” he said. “I still have an iPad. I like a lot of shows. Usually, I watch those when I’m on the road. That’s when I have time. When I’m at home, my wife and I like to watch “Game of Thrones” – that’s the one show.

“We used to be super hardcore about it when my daughter was first born but we realized you have to let her watch some TV. It was more we were concerned about the screen time. We didn’t want to hurt her young eyes.”

After Jake Layman scored 28 points  Wednesday night against Phoenix, he credited Aminu with helping him prepare for games. It’s something the versatile forward is proud of.

“When you’re playing off the ball, you have to do a little more preparation, although I shouldn’t say that because I don’t really know what those guys do,” he said.

“When the game starts and you’re open for a shot in the corner, sometimes you pass up that shot because you don’t have rhythm. You have to shoot that shot because you’re open. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

"You have to have that rhythm when you get in the game. Otherwise it might take 10 minutes before you get another chance and the game might pass you by.

“In high school you could blame it on the coach. ‘The coach isn’t getting me in rhythm.’ At this level, you’re a pro and you’re supposed to get yourself ready.”

Aminu puts a lot of work into his shot and has improved from the three-point line. He has tried to evolve with the league.

“Necessity,” he says. “You see certain things become dinosaurs in this league. You have to watch the league – it’s always changing. The big bruisers – there aren’t many of them around anymore. You have to change with the times.

“People want players who can shoot to create spacing for their star players.”

Through the changes, Aminu remains a man who doesn’t seek the spotlight. He knows he’s being compensated for his efforts.

“They pay me well,” he said. “They appreciate me. I don’t need the interviews or the attention. At the end of the day, they pay me well.  If I’m getting all the attention, it wouldn’t make sense. They pay other guys to be the face of this franchise.

“My mom said when I was kid I didn’t need a lot of attention.”

And she was right.


Scoop Journal: Small-ball, runway models, and 40 three-pointers

Scoop Journal: Small-ball, runway models, and 40 three-pointers

Welcome to The Scoop Journal, where every week I empty my notebook of wide ranging Trail Blazer thoughts, observations, and randomness. I hope you enjoy this light-hearted weekly blog...

October 9th, 2018

Dear Scoop Journal,

The countdown to the regular season is on. Everybody is ready for training camp to be over, amirite?? Some Blazer thoughts as we round the corner of the preseason:

*Harkless says his knee is feeling good and he’s getting stronger. He thinks because he was favoring his knee so much that’s what caused him to have some ankle pain. He’s still working through the ankle injury.

*McCollum is spitting truth: He’s ready for the regular season and feels training camp is too long.

*Watching Seth Curry in the starting lineup vs. Jazz on Sunday got me thinking that we could definitely see a small-ball lineup this season. Coach Stotts said he started Curry to get a look at a three-guard lineup and he liked what he saw. 

*After practice it’s always entertaining to watch Aminu, Collins, Harkless and Leonard competing in a 3-point shooting contest. Aminu is so animated both when he is winning and when he’s behind. He had made just two shots, while Zach and Moe had made 3 and when Coach Moran yelled out 'hey guy in the back with two, you’re up next,' Aminu looked behind him as if he wasn’t the one with just two makes. It was hilarious; you had to be there.

*Evan Turner and CJ McCollum both participated in a runway model shoot. Both guys looked fly and both said they have a new type of respect for models. CJ said the hardest part for his was making sure to keep a straight face and not smile—ALSO the goal was NOT TO TRIP AND FALL—Mission accomplished.

View this post on Instagram

Biker boy #fashionxt

A post shared by evan turner (@evanturner) on

*Sunday was an awesome REUNION at Moda Center. The first home preseason game is all about seeing all the Moda security guards and the broadcasting crew and finding out how everyone’s summer went. It really is like a big family reunion.

*NBC Sports NW radio host Brian Noe thinks he can make 40 out of 100 NBA three-pointers… I asked Aminu what he thought about this… “The NBA three is kinda far, man… 40’s A LOT if you haven’t shot in awhile” So, basically, Aminu is laughing on the inside saying GOOD LUCK, Brian. Good luck. (As am I). ***NOTE TO SELF: I need to check in and find out how Brian did with his 3-pt. contest later this week.

Eat, Zach. Eat: Collins' carryover to the court

Eat, Zach. Eat: Collins' carryover to the court

Zach Collins is hungry.

Following a rookie campaign where he appeared in 66 games, registering 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game, Collins vowed to hit the weight room this offseason.

The Trail Blazers forward arrives at his second training camp roughly 17 pounds heavier than a year ago.

Collins weighs in around 240 pounds this training camp.

And, so far, he feels his hard work pumping iron is already paying dividends on the court.

“I’m holding my ground a lot more than last year against big guys like Nurkic,” Collins said. “[Last year,] they probably just saw a skinny, tall guy coming in. So, they probably thought they could bully me a little bit. But, I welcome that. I’m up for the challenge.”

[RELATED: Zach Collins with his new swagger: Poised for a breakout season?]

Collins says he takes advantage of the team provided meals, which a mixture of healthy carbohydrates and plenty of protein. He even leans on the team’s nutritionist for guidance. In fact, they even went out shopping with him when he first arrived in Portland as a rookie to point out healthy snacks, suggested food brands and hidden ingredients to watch for.

“That first year is a whirlwind,” Al-Farouq Aminu said. “He handled it like a professional. He’s always on top of his body as well as making sure he gets in enough work [on the court.] With that formula, he’ll be ok.”

While Collins came on late during the 2017-18 season, he feels there’s plenty to improve upon, including defense, an area has hangs his hat on.

“I need to get a lot better in everything I do,” Collins said.

[RELATED-- Blazer big man Zach Collins: A walk down memory lane plus lofty goals for a sophomore season]

Collins scored 4 points and registered 6 rebounds in a team high 19 minutes in the Trail Blazers preseason opener.

“He puts a lot of time in on the practice court,” Terry Stotts said. “He can finish better around the basket now that he’s gotten stronger and has a better feel around the paint. He can help us in a lot of different areas.”

And while Collins hopes to be eating up boards and swallowing up defenders, there will be a continual emphasis on making sure he eats right and, most importantly, eats enough.

“I need to make sure I keep putting on calories and paying attention to it because we burn so much on the court,” Collins said.

The Trail Blazers provide two meals a day for the players, and Collins says he even takes some to go.

“I don’t know how to cook yet. That’s probably something I need to learn for the future. But, right now, I take as much as I can from here.”

Eat, Zach. Eat.