Zach Collins doesn’t have a guaranteed contract for next season, but coach Gregg Popovich declared today that he’ll be the Spurs‘ starting center, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The 25-year-old big man has revived his career over the past two years in San Antonio after an ankle injury caused him to sit out the entire 2020/21 season. Popovich’s declaration means the Spurs are virtually certain to guarantee Collins’ $7.7MM salary for next year.
Collins has excelled since taking over the starting spot after Jakob Poeltl was traded to Toronto in February, Orsborn notes. Over that time, he has averaged 16.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals in 19 games while shooting 39.2% on three-pointers.
“He’s playing with abandon now, for a long time, for months,” Popovich said. “He’s added the three-point shot to his game, he’s balanced better on the post, he’s playing good defense. “… The fact he can shoot it and has gained confidence in it really makes him that much more dangerous.”
Popovich also revealed that Collins is finished for the season, missing this afternoon’s game and Sunday’s finale after being sent home due to a problem with stitches on his left hand.
There’s more on the Spurs:
- The pronouncement from Popovich leads to speculation that he has already decided to return to the team next season, tweets NBA writer Marc Stein. The 74-year-old coach, who was announced as a Hall of Fame inductee last weekend, has been running the Spurs since 1996.
- Julian Champagnie posted his fourth straight double-digit scoring performance on Saturday, Orsborn tweets. The rookie small forward has benefited from an increase in playing time over the past three weeks. “There is really only one way to learn the game, you have to just get thrown out there and learn to play,” Champagnie said. “That’s what they have been giving me.”
- The most important work for the Spurs will start after the regular season wraps up on Sunday, Orsborn states in another Express-News article. The front office will turn its attention to the draft and free agency after one of the worst seasons in franchise history. However, the Spurs were able to accomplish their main goals, which were maximizing their chances at the No. 1 pick and developing the young talent they already have. “I feel like every single person on the roster got better,” Keldon Johnson said. “Obviously we didn’t win 30, 40, 50 games. We got better every single week and we stayed together the whole time.”