The Las Vegas Summer League did not go the way that Zach Collins would have preferred. Selected by the Kings with the 10th overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft and later traded to the Trail Blazers in exchange for the draft rights to Josh Jackson and Harry Giles, the 7-0 center out of Gonzaga had his summer league cut short due to a right quadricep contusion suffered in Portland’s loss to San Antonio on July 15. Missing the last five games of summer league play, including the Trail Blazers’ unlikely run to the tournament final, would be been disappointing for any rookie, and that goes double for a rookie who also happens to be a Las Vegas native.
But even so, Collins says he’ll remember his first summer league as a learning experience rather than a disappointment. He didn’t get to play as much nor as well as he believes he can — Collins averaged 6.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 23.3 minutes per game in Las Vegas — but he also knows summer league comprises just the first step of what will hopefully be a long NBA career.
All in all, how did you feel like your first summer league experience went?
Zach Collins: I think I learned a lot. I think it was a success in learning as much as I did, watching a lot of film with the coaches every day. They told me I’ve improved every day, so that’s definitely a goal going into summer league is to grow and learn. I think I did that.
I had a couple tough games offensively but I think, in the long run, it’s all positive. I got to learn from it, the physicality, the speed of it, I got to experience going up against great players. It’s summer league so it doesn’t really matter toward your career, so I got a chance to work out the kinks a little bit. But I think it’s all positive. I haven’t really had a couple games like that where I was not efficient, but I learned from it. I’m glad that I was able to experience those couple of games. Obviously I’m disappointed I can’t go the rest of the week, but that’s a part of it.
You mentioned struggling with your shooting from the field, but you all of the coaches, be it Terry Stotts or Jim Moran, said they were impressed by your play on the defensive end.
Zach Collins: Offensively, obviously the last couple of games weren’t going well for me, but defense is kind of an effort thing and it’s something you can control. So definitely wanted to try and bring consistent effort on defense even if my shot wasn’t falling.
Outside of playing in the actual games, learning how the team goes about preparing for games and evaluating film afterward must have been helpful.
Zach Collins: This whole experience, learning the speed of the game, the physicality, getting used to all that, this experience has helped me a lot and I think it’s going to help me a lot to know what to expect going forward. Obviously it’s not going to get easier going forward, so I think playing in these games, playing up and down, playing fast, playing a physical game where each guy gets ten fouls, it’s definitely going to help me grow.
On the other hand, not getting to play much, let alone as well as you would have liked in the town you grew up in must have been disappointing.
Zach Collins: It’s tough. Regardless of where I am, I want to play, but especially being in my hometown. This is where all my family and friends can come see me play without having to hop on a flight, so definitely disappointed that they couldn’t come to watch me, but it happens.
How is the injury? Is it severe or is sitting out more of a precaution?
Zach Collins: I’ve been doing a lot of treatment since it happened last Sunday. Been doing treatment all day trying to get it right, get it to where I could still get in the gym eventually even if I can’t play in games. It’s not a long term thing.
So what’s next after the end of summer league? Are you staying in Las Vegas? Heading to Portland?
Zach Collins: I don’t know yet, I’ve still got to talk to the trainers. The original plan, obviously if I was healthy, was to stay in Las Vegas because we’ve got (Tim) Grgurich’s camp coming up in August. I was going to stay for that but they were talking about me coming up (to Portland) to get treatment for a few days. We’ll see, hopefully we can get this handled here so I don’t have to worry about it anymore.