Trail Blazers rookie Zach Collins pledges to ‘keep going at it’ after rough start to summer league

LAS VEGAS– The first shot he took went in. 

Zach Collins caught the ball on the right block, took two dribbles to get his rhythm and then drained a turnaround jumper over a Utah Jazz defender.

It was the rookie’s first attempt of Las Vegas Summer League and his first shot in Portland Trail Blazers uniform. He hasn’t duplicated that moment many times since.

“Sometimes it goes that way,” Collins said, following a 1-for-7 shooting night against the Boston Celtics in his second game of summer league on Sunday night. “But it’s frustrating. I don’t feel like I’m offensively playing as well as I could be and the ball’s not going in right now. I just gotta keep going at it.”

Collins, the No. 10 overall pick in the June draft, went 3-for-13 in his debut on Saturday, finishing with 10 points. He was noticeably frustrated afterwards, struggling to see any positives from his first professional game. 

There was no bounce back on Sunday. Collins made just one shot and finished with five points. He was slightly more upbeat on Sunday night, admitting that he played decent defense even as his offensive game escaped him.

Collins was a presence in the paint against the Celtics. On one possession in the first half, he stopped Jaylen Brown on two drives into the paint, using his 9-foot-3 standing reach to challenge the Celtics’ second year wing as he charged toward the rim.

“I feel like my defense is going to be there consistently because that’s an effort thing,” Collins said. “And something that I can control is effort. I got a lot of good looks offensively. Sometimes I was rushing it. I rushed a couple shots under the rim. I think I need to get to the basket a little bit more. But that’ll come … but defensively I thought I was alright.”

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Collins’ version of ‘alright’ is more than enough for the Blazers coaching staff at this stage. They aren’t putting pressure on the 19-year-old to dominate in meaningless games in Vegas. Terry Stotts stopped to chat with Collins after his first game on Saturday night, telling the rookie big man that summer league is a learning process, not a measuring stick.

Collins, a Vegas native, says he isn’t feeling the pressure of being a top pick playing in his hometown. Instead, he’s just a player who is struggling with his offensive game and committed to finding his rhythm. 

“Regardless of where I’m drafted I hold myself to a high standard,” he said. “Obviously, I’m not hitting shots right now. I gotta know that the work I put in to get to this point … those shots will eventually fall.”