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