The Portland Trail Blazers will have to continue the playoffs without one of their starting big men for the remainder of the season. The team announced Friday evening that Zach Collins will undergo season-ending ankle surgery, dealing a major blow to Portland’s chances in the first round of the postseason. The nearly five-month NBA hiatus allowed Collins to fully recover from shoulder surgery that he underwent back in November, which limited him to just three games prior to the restart. When he arrived in the bubble, his presence in the starting lineup helped lift the Trail Blazers to the playoffs, but now he will have to cheer his team on from the sidelines after this latest injury.
After undergoing an MRI on Wednesday, it was revealed that he suffered a hairline medial malleolus stress fracture of his left ankle. A date for the surgery has not been announced, nor the timetable for his recovery, however, this does not bode well for Portland in its current matchup with the Lakers.
Though he was limited this season, Collins provides Portland with great interior defense, as well as rebounding, and the Blazers could use as much size as possible against the height of the Lakers. Portland is already without Trevor Ariza, Rodney Hood and Nassir Little, losing Collins just adds to the list of players that the Blazers could desperately use in this matchup. Without Collins returning, that means will likely see more of rookie forward Wenyen Gabriel who got the start in the first two games for Portland. Gabriel hasn’t provided much on either end of the floor, posting a plus-minus of 0.5, but he’s been a better option than Hassan Whiteside who was a minus-14 in Game 2 against the Lakers. The Blazers are incredibly thin in the frontcourt, so there aren’t a ton of options for them to pair alongside big man Jusuf Nurkic.
On Thursday night, Portland suffered a blowout loss to the Lakers in Game 2 of that first-round series, and All-Star guard Damian Lillard came away from the game with a dislocated finger that required him to leave the game. Lillard has been adamant in saying that he’ll play in Game 3, though Portland coach Terry Stotts said that he expects his star guard to wear a splint during the game.