Zach Collins’ career with the Portland Trail Blazers at a pivotal point

The saga of Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins’ development and future with the team is rapidly approaching a fork in the road.

a group of people riding on the back of a basketball game: The Portland Trail Blazers face the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at Moda Center on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Sean Meagher/Staff

© Sean Meagher | The Oregonian/OregonLive/
The Portland Trail Blazers face the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at Moda Center on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Sean Meagher/Staff

Entering his fourth season, Collins is either going to flourish and likely re-sign with Portland or continue to flounder and force the Blazers to make a decision with financial ramifications surrounding a promising but oft-injured talent that has yet to put things together in the NBA.

The potential dilemma ideally would have been put to rest last season when Collins became the starting power forward and appeared ready to establish himself as the team’s best option at that position since LaMarcus Aldridge departed for San Antonio as a free agent in 2015. Instead, Collins suffered a shoulder injury in the third game of the season and did not return until the restart in Orlando in late July.

“It sucked, man,” Collins, who missed 63 games last season, said Wednesday. “Obviously, that was my year.”

His year as in the year he was supposed shine. Collins looked solid, yet rusty, at the NBA bubble before suffering a stress fracture to his left ankle. It’s an injury that will cause Collins to miss the start of the upcoming regular season on Dec. 22 and left Portland with no choice but to search for a reliable alternative at power forward.

Collins said he is at the three-month mark of a four-to-six month rehabilitation process and expects to be ready to play in mid-to-late January.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I’m in a good spot and I like where I’m at.”

The problem for Collins is that the team will be four weeks into the season when he returns and an immovable object might have already taken root at power forward forcing Collins into a reserve role.

Neil Olshey, Blazers president of basketball operations, made several offseason roster moves and each one could have some impact on Collins.

Portland acquired versatile forward Robert Covington in a trade with Houston, brought back Carmelo Anthony, signed last season to start in place of Collins after he went down. Derrick Jones Jr., signed as a free agent from Miami, will start at small forward and the team re-signed Rodney Hood, also a small forward. Plus, Portland traded for center Enes Kanter, who played a big part during the team’s 2019 run to the Western Conference Finals. Finally, Olshey signed forward Harry Giles III, the Blazers’ 20th pick in the 2017 draft that the team traded, along with the 15th pick, to Sacramento for the rights to Collins taken 10th by the Kings.

Collins said the new additions have already meshed nicely with the team.

“The guys that we brought in can do a lot of different things,” Collins said. “It seems like they were meant to be here. They

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‘Stay your path’: How TU’s Zaven Collins developed from an under-the-radar recruit into one of the best players in college football | TU Sports Extra

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As a fourth-year junior, Zaven Collins is producing an all-America season with stats that are staggering for six games, what equates to half a year: 48 tackles including 10.5 for lost yardage and four sacks; four interceptions with two pick-sixes; a forced fumble and a safety. Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP file

HOMINY — The date is tattooed on Haley Collins’ brain, like a loved one’s birthday or a significant anniversary: July 22, 2016.

“I’ll never forget that day,” she said. “It changed our lives.”

In a matter of hours, her son’s path would go a different direction — one that would allow him to live out his dream of playing college football after nearly giving up on it altogether.

More than four years later, Zaven Collins is the unassuming star of the University of Tulsa football team during a surprise turnaround season, a big-bodied linebacker from a small town in line for national recognition and on the verge of an NFL career.

“I’m just grateful to be here,” Collins said. “If not, I would probably still be in Hominy working in the oilfield or doing something along those means. I’m pretty thankful to be where I’m at.”

Hominy, located in Osage County about 45 minutes northwest of Tulsa, has a footprint of about 2 square miles. It’s known for a tradition-rich football history that includes the Hominy Indians, a professional team that defeated the New York Giants in 1927, and a high school program that has claimed five state championships — most recently in 2016, when Collins was a senior who quarterbacked the Bucks to the Class A gold ball.

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Zaven Collins was born May 19, 1999, at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa. COURTESY/Haley Collins

The population of Hominy is estimated at 3,500, but close to a third of that comes from the prison on the north side of town. Most of the residents have lived in the town their whole lives, including Zaven’s mother and his entire family.

Haley Collins was 21 when she got pregnant, not exactly something that was planned. She was inspired to get her life on track, going back to school and working as a bailiff while she finished her degree.

“I knew I needed a job to raise my child the way I wanted to raise him,” she said.

After Zaven was born at St. Francis in Tulsa, he was nameless for three days because the rest of the family wasn’t sold on the name, which his mom came across while working as a secretary at an interior design company. Eventually everyone else came around on it, and his big smile lit up their lives.

“He was a good kid,” Haley Collins said. “He always wanted to make people laugh, ever since he was a baby.”

Zaven grew up without a father but didn’t let it affect him. His dad, also a Hominy native, has never been in the picture.

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Zaven Collins and his mom, Haley, pose for a photo at Zaven’s Hominy graduation

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Gideon maintains narrow 3-point lead over Collins in latest Colby College poll

In what could be one of the final polls of the U.S. Senate race before Election Day, Democrat Sara Gideon continues to hold a narrow 3-point lead over Republican incumbent Susan Collins among likely Maine voters.

A survey of 879 individuals, developed and fielded by Colby College of Waterville, revealed that 46.6 percent of voters said they plan to vote for Gideon, compared to 43.4 percent for Collins. Independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn received 4.7 percent and 1.7 percent support, respectively, with 3.6 percent undecided. The poll was conducted Oct. 21-25 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Gideon’s lead has been hovering around 3-5 points in nearly all public polling over the last three months.

“After $160 million spent, you might think there would be some movement,” said Dan Shea, chair of the Colby College Department of Government and the lead researcher on the poll.

The Colby poll also showed Vice President Joe Biden with a commanding 51-38 percent advantage over President Trump among Maine voters, although Biden’s lead shrinks to 4 points (46-42 percent) in the more conservative 2nd Congressional District, where Trump won four years ago and where his campaign has been focusing intently in recent weeks. Trump himself made a last-minute stop in Levant on Sunday.

“I’m a little surprised the Trump campaign is spending so much time here, given that he’s behind in other states with more electoral college votes,” Shea said. Maine has four electoral votes.

Maine is one of only two states that apportions some of its electoral votes by congressional district.

“Four years ago, President Trump won Maine’s Second CD with relative ease,” said Nicholas Jacobs, another Colby faculty researcher working on the poll. “However, right now Joe Biden has a real shot at taking it away from him. There is a reason why both campaigns are running hard there. With almost one in every 10 voters still undecided, and a third of ballots already cast, these last-minute appeals will determine the winner. It is probably going to be the most expensive electoral college vote in the country.”

In Maine’s two congressional races, the Colby survey shows both incumbent Democrats with major leads over their challengers. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree leads 58-31 percent over Republican Jay Allen in the 1st District race, and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden leads Republican Dale Crafts, 56-31 percent.

Shea said he was surprised Golden has such a big lead given that he’s a first-term congressman.

“Usually, incumbency doesn’t become a big advantage for House members until they have won a few times,” he said.

In the Senate race, Shea said, ranked-choice voting is likely to be the deciding factor. He said the survey suggests that a majority of Savage supporters would vote for Gideon second. Linn’s supporters, on the other hand, were split on their second choices.

“I think it’s possible that the Savage voters, with their second choice votes, will end up picking the next senator from Maine,” he

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