Despite A Broken Nose, Collins Ready To Return To Las Vegas

by Casey Holdahl
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Last year in Las Vegas, rookie Zach Collins, who the Trail Blazers acquired from the Sacramento Kings during the 2017 NBA Draft, suffered a minor injury that kept him out of all but the first two games of Portland’s summer league schedule.

This time around, he’s getting the minor injuries out of the way before the start of summer league play.

The 7-0 power forward/center who was selected with the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft out of Gonzaga, suffered a broken nose during the first day of summer league practice Tuesday at the Trail Blazers’ practice facility in Tualatin. Collins was on the receiving end of an inadvertent headbutt from Caleb Swanigan. Due to the injury, Collins will be held out of contact drills until the team starts their Las Vegas Summer League schedule this weekend.

“I got hit yesterday at the end of practice. It was literally the last play of practice when I got hit,” said Collins, who was also sporting a black eye from the collision. “I didn’t do any contact today. They want to keep me out of contact this week — as far as I know that’s the plan — and then play Saturday. Just be ready for summer league.”

Which, one could argue, he wasn’t at this time last year. Between the injury, the style of play at summer league that heavily favors guards over bigs and not participating in workouts during the run up to the 2017 Draft, Collins was never able to find a rhythm during his first experience as a pro in Las Vegas.

“Any time you can play in an NBA league I think you’re going to get a lot better,” said Collins. “Obviously last year it wasn’t a great summer league for me, but it was definitely an eye-opening experience about how much I needed to improve. I think this summer league I’m going to be a lot more comfortable. Looking to go down there and win just like we did last year and just improve. It’s all about reps.”

What’s more, Collins’ second crack at at summer league play will give him the opportunity to play in front of friends and family in his hometown of Las Vegas. Collins proved with his play during the 2017-18 regular season that he was better than the player people saw at summer league, but having another opportunity to make that statement in the town where he grew up serves as a slight bit of extra motivation.

“You always want to perform well in your hometown,” said Collins, who went to high school at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. “But it’s summer league, it’s not necessarily at the end of your career what people are going to talk about. But as a competitor, you always want to go out there and be the best, so that’s the goal.”

It would be great to see Collins play well at summer league, he’s already proven he’s capable of playing rotation minutes on an NBA playoff team, something more than a few players who turned in superior performances at the 2017 summer league failed to do last season. So even if he doesn’t end up setting summer league on fire, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t accomplished what he needs to this offseason.

“Basically all I’ve been doing is working out and chilling at home,” said Collins. “It’s been a pretty simple life for pretty much the whole summer, just been working out. I wasn’t on the court a lot, I was mostly in the weight room for a long time, I got back on the court probably a month ago, close to a month ago. Just working on a little hit of everything, trying to put weight on, trying to put muscle on. It’s been a good summer.”