At some point, when Portland Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins finally gets to Orlando, Florida, settles into the Disney Yacht Club hotel and begins practicing once again, he’ll finally get to test the shoulder that has kept him off the floor since late October.
Collins hasn’t gotten to test it in full just yet. He said he would need game-like contact to truly see how his shoulder would hold up. As the Blazers continue practicing in Portland, contact hasn’t been allowed yet.
But for now, he’s practicing with no limitations, and he said his shoulder feels good, even if he hasn’t been touched. After a long rehab process, Collins is ready to go.
“I feel pretty normal on the court like the surgery didn’t even happen,” Collins said Thursday.
The Trail Blazers are practicing under many restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic before traveling to Orlando next week for the resumption of the NBA season. The Blazers are set to restart with a July 31 game against Memphis.
Collins has been in the weight room and tried to work his shoulder as much as possible with stress and flexibility tests.
Practices in Portland have been mostly individual work — working on shots and conditioning. Normally Collins isn’t able to use the full court, and only four players are allowed in at a time. A teammate finishing early or not showing up is his only chance to use the full floor. At whatever level is possible, Collins and the Blazers are trying to replicate game action before practices can ramp up in intensity come Orlando.
“Hopefully once we get to Orlando, we’ll hit the ground running and get as close to game shape as possible,” Collins said.
But there are clear risks off the court in Orlando once the Blazers gets there, ones that extend far beyond Collins’ shoulder.
Collins has seen reports from the MLS — which is already in Orlando — on the number of COVID-19 cases that have arisen in that bubble, and he’s seen the numbers of cases that are spiking across the United States. But he isn’t too worried about returning to play.
“It’s a risk either way, this whole thing is a risk,” Collins said. “But at some point, we have to get back to life. I think this is a step in that direction, and I think bringing us back is going to provide a little bit more normalcy for people around us. I think that’s good. I think that’s huge for the world.”
Collins said he knows that he isn’t in the at-risk demographics for COVID-19. He said the majority of those who have lost their lives in their pandemic haven’t been healthy, young people like himself.
He’s more concerned about the families when they are allowed to visit. Collins knows that by the time families are allowed to come, the players will have been in the bubble long enough that they shouldn’t have an infection, but that players’ parents are in, or closer to, the more at-risk demographic.
“I’ve talked to my…