Despite missing Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic up front, the Trail Blazers, currently carrying 14 players on their roster, plan to rely on their depth and positional versatility rather than adding a free agent big man with their open 15th roster spot, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The Blazers announced on Tuesday that Collins, the team’s starting power forward, would miss four months of game action following left shoulder surgery.
A team source relayed to Freeman that signing a new frontcourt piece to shore up depth “is not a priority at this point.” Adding a 15th man would cost the Blazers more than just that player’s salary, since the team is over the luxury tax threshold.
Since Collins suffered the injury against Dallas on October 27, Portland coach Terry Stotts has opted to start journeyman veteran Anthony Tolliver (who can play either forward position) in his stead, with Skal Labissiere spelling Tolliver off the bench.
The Blazers’ 1-3 record following the loss of Collins (they are 3-4 on the year) includes a 127-118 defeat to an injury-depleted Golden State squad yesterday. In the ultra-competitive Western Conference, the Blazers face a tough schedule through November: they will be playing the Clippers, Spurs, Rockets and Bucks, all before Thanksgiving.
Pau Gasol, signed this summer, continues to rehabilitate a left foot stress fracture incurred in May while Gasol was with Milwaukee. Yesterday, Gasol partook in the team’s San Francisco morning shootaround and noted that he has engaged in 1-on-1 contact practice work with Portland assistant coaches. Gasol demurred when asked for a recovery timeline.
“It’s still early,” he told Freeman. “But hopefully I’m getting there.”
Blazers starting center Nurkic remains out of commission as he recovers from compound fractures to his left tibula and fibula suffered in March. This summer, Portland traded for Hassan Whiteside to fill in for Nurkic. Portland’s lone All-Star, Damian Lillard, remained optimistic about his team’s ability to weather the absences of Collins and Nurkic.
“We’ve got to love them as our friends and as our teammates, but the job still has to get done on the court and I think our mentality has to be that it’s not too much for us to handle and we can still get the job done,” Lillard said.