Whiteside, Collins Return To Practice, Expected To Play Versus Nuggets

by Casey Holdahl
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Despite acquiring Hassan Whiteside via trade and signing Pau Gasol this offseason, the Trail Blazers have been a bit short on bigs through the first week of training camp.

Between Whiteside nursing a sprained left ankle, Gasol still rehabilitating the foot he underwent surgery to repair in April, Zach Collins injuring his middle finger during one of the team's first practices and Jusuf Nurkic's absence, the Trail Blazers have only had Skal Labissiere and Moses Brown, an undrafted rookie on a training camp contract, available at center for the better part of training camp thus far.

But after making due in the intra-squad scrimmage at Fan Fest with only a few big bodies available, the Trail Blazers should have more help in the middle in their preseason opener Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as neither Whiteside nor Collins are listed on the injury list. Both players returned to practice on Monday after forgoing contract drills and scrimmages for the last few days.

Assuming both suit up and play, Tuesday preseason opener versus there Nuggets will be the first time fans will have a chance to see Collins and Whiteside, who are expected to starter this season at power forward and center, respectively, team up in there paint.

As for Gasol, he is listed as out for Tuesday's game, though he noted last week that he was hopefully he'd be able to play in at least one of Portland's preseason games.

As for the Nuggets, they too will be a bit short on bigs, as Nikola Jokic (rest management) and Bol Bol (foot) are listed as out.

With most of the roster available for Tuesday's game versus Denver, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts can now begin tinkering with lineups and, at least in earnest.

"I think this week, these three games, you'll see a lot of different combinations," said Stotts. "I'm really not looking at combinations this week, it's more about getting the rotation so the rotation kinda makes sense so guys can play. I wouldn't read too much into the rotation (versus Denver)."

As he often does, Stotts plans on using the first few games of preseason to see every player on the roster before trimming the rotation down near the end of the exhibition schedule.

"I think tomorrow, the first week of preseason games, letting everybody get some run," said Stotts. "And then next week when we play Utah and Denver, that will be a little different. But tomorrow, hopefully everybody gets in the game."

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