If Zach Collins returns to the court to play his first NBA game in nearly a calendar year, it will not happen until the postseason, he tells Jason Quick of The Athletic.
NBCSNW has confirmed the timeline. Collins is expecting to return to the court at the six-month mark of his rehab following revision surgery in late Dec.
The 10th-overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft told The Athletic his left ankle is “healing like it should,” but said he will miss most of the 2020-21 season barring a deep playoff run.
“The only way I could come back is if we are in the playoffs,” Collins told The Athletic. “That’s just how my timeline has worked out. When we (had a second surgery) it was a four-to-six month thing, and we all knew it was going to be closer to six months for me.”
He added he wants, "to come back this season, and [he's] not counting it out,” but that he will not put himself under intense pressure to rush back onto the floor. Collins, an impending restricted free agent, wants to heal his surgically repaired left ankle to 100%.
Given the six-month timeline, Collins could return to the Blazers as soon as the second round. That would require Portland, the Western Conference's sixth seed, to defeat one of the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.
First-round matchups with the Lakers or Nuggets are also possible, but the Blazers trail the Lakers by 2.5 games with Anthony Davis returning Thursday and LeBron James returning in the next few weeks, and the Nuggets by 6.0 games.
The Blazers let longtime starting power forward Al-Farouq Aminu walk in free agency, despite having his bird rights, to open up a starting position for Collins entering his third season. However, Collins suffered a separated left shoulder in the team's third game and did not play again until July, where he suffered an ankle injury during the play-in round.
He averaged 7.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in 11 starts last season.
Arguably his best stretch of basketball came during the 2019 NBA Playoffs where the extended playing time of Collins, alongside Rodney Hood, helped the Blazers defeat the Denver Nuggets in seven games.