Zach Collins

Southwest Notes: Wemby, Tillman, J. Williams, McCollum

The Spurs are expected to be very cautious with new franchise player Victor Wembanyama during his rookie season. He won’t be impacted by the league’s new player participation policy, which only applies to recent All-Stars and All-NBA players, which will give San Antonio more flexibility to hold him out of certain games if necessary. However, if it were up to him, Wembanyama would play all full 82-game schedule in 2023/24, as Andrew Lopez of details.

“Every game,” Wembanyama said. “If there’s no excessive risk for my health — of course I can’t predict the future — but I want to play every single game.”

The French phenom will open the season as the Spurs’ starting power forward alongside center Zach Collins, and the team has made developing the chemistry between the two big men a priority this month, notes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. The thinking is that Collins is more equipped to handle the physicality associated with the center position and that having him out there will help reduce the wear and tear on Wembanyama. Still, the 19-year-old is prepared for opponents to test his physicality, Lopez writes.

“Everyone has their strength, and being physical [with me] is something I’ve seen my whole life, basically every time I stepped on a court for the last few years,” Wembanyama said. “It’s not something I’m afraid of. Quickness beats physicality when used correctly. It’s really part of the game. I’m used to it.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Xavier Tillman is “probably a leader in the clubhouse” to start at center for the Grizzlies with both Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke sidelined, head coach Taylor Jenkins said on Tuesday, per Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. The fourth-year big man started 29 games at center last season and Memphis won 18 of them, though his role figures to look a little different this season, as Cole explains.
  • Jeenathan Williams made a positive impression on Rockets head coach Ime Udoka during training camp and the preseason, which helped him secure a promotion from his camp deal to a two-way contract, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “He is a pretty natural, fluid scorer,” Udoka said. “He is a guy that played well in the G League last year and had a good stint at the end of the year with Portland. … He had a good summer with us as well. A guy that gives us a burst and we feel can play with many different lineups. And since he has come in, he has been one of the better guys with the second and third unit.”
  • Speaking to Sam Yip of HoopsHype, Pelicans guard CJ McCollum discussed his expectations for the upcoming season, his role as the NBPA president, and why he’s encouraged by what he’s seen from Zion Williamson entering the season.

Spurs Sign Zach Collins To Two-Year Extension

10:35pm: The Spurs have confirmed the extension through a press statement.

12:09pm: The Spurs and big man Zach Collins have agreed to a two-year contract extension that will be worth $35MM, agent Mark Bartelstein tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The deal is fully guaranteed, with no second-year player or team option, tweets Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Collins, who will turn 26 next month, is coming off his healthiest season in four years. Appearing in 63 games (26 starts) for San Antonio in 2022/23, he averaged 11.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 22.9 minutes per game, posting a solid shooting line of .518/.374/.761.

The 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Collins flashed some promise early in his career in Portland, but saw his career derailed by ankle injuries, which limited him to 11 games in 2019/20 and sidelined him for the entire ’20/21 season.

When Collins signed with the Spurs as a free agent in 2021, he received a three-year, $22MM contract, but it was only fully guaranteed for one full season, with a partial guarantee in year two and a non-guaranteed third year. The former Gonzaga standout only played in 28 games in his first season in San Antonio, but ’22/23 was the best season of his career, putting him in position to become part of the team’s future beyond his current contract.

Collins projects to be part of the Spurs’ starting lineup alongside Victor Wembanyama this fall, as the club looks to reduce the wear and tear on its prized rookie by having him play at power forward instead of center.

As Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype observes (via Twitter), San Antonio initially projected to have upwards of $60MM in cap room in the summer of 2024, but have now dedicated more than half that space to new contracts for Collins and Devin Vassell, who signed a five-year, $135MM rookie scale extension earlier this month.

The exact terms of Collins’ extension aren’t yet known, but it sounds like the Spurs will give him the maximum possible veteran extension for a player earning less than the NBA’s estimated average salary ($11,958,000). The veteran center is eligible to receive a starting salary worth 40% of that figure in his new deal, with an 8% raise in year two — those terms would put him in line to earn approximately $34.82MM on the extension after making $7.7MM in 2023/24.

Collins’ extension will make him ineligible to be traded for six months, Gozlan notes, so the Spurs won’t be able to move him until the 2024 offseason.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks suggested on the latest episode of The Lowe Post podcast that a deal for Collins could be imminent. Lowe advised keeping an eye on the Spurs center as a potential veteran extension candidate, and Marks responded by saying he had heard that rumor “multiple times.”

Southwest Notes: Morant, Spurs, Sochan, Pelicans, J. Green

Baxter Holmes and Tim MacMahon of published a lengthy investigative story this week detailing the transformation of Grizzlies guard Ja Morant from a Murray State prospect with “zero” red flags into a player whose worrisome off-court behavior led to multiple sit-downs with the team’s brass and – eventually – to suspensions of eight and 25 games.

While ESPN’s report includes several new details and quotes and is worth checking out in full, Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins rejected the idea that it created an “elephant in the room” for his club, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. According to Cole, shortly after ESPN’s article was published, Jenkins met with the team — and separately with Morant.

“I read the article, and I’m not going to comment on anonymous sources,” Jenkins said. “I’m not really going to comment on the past. I’m really just focused on the present right now — the strides he is making, positive strides, and the strides that the team is making. … I want him to know he’s got 100% support from us and his teammates.”

Morant’s teammates were equally dismissive of the ESPN report and expressed their support for the point guard, who will serve his 25-game suspension to begin the 2023/24 season. Big man Xavier Tillman called it “annoying” to have to relitigate Morant’s past behavior, while Desmond Bane said the rest of the team has “got his back.”

“People are bringing up anything they can just for people to have anything to read,” Bane said. “We ain’t worried about that. We with 12.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Spurs‘ starting five for the regular season will consist of Jeremy Sochan, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Victor Wembanyama, and Zach Collins, head coach Gregg Popovich revealed this week (story via Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News). The 6’9″ Sochan will serve as the de facto point guard in the super-sized lineup, though he expects to share the ball-handling duties. “It doesn’t mean I have to control (the offense) or be the main ball-handler,” Sochan said. “Whoever gets the ball can push it and play with a flow instead of playing slow.”
  • Pelicans big men Larry Nance Jr. (ankle) and Cody Zeller (back) took part in contact drills in practice on Thursday, while guard Jose Alvarado (ankle) was a limited participant, tweets Christian Clark of New Orleans will be without Naji Marshall and Trey Murphy when the season gets underway, so having Nance, Zeller, and Alvarado available would help bolster the club’s depth.
  • Rockets guard and former No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green sat down with Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link) to discuss what he worked on during the offseason, his thoughts on the addition of free agent point guard Fred VanVleet, and his impressions of several of his new teammates, among other topics.
  • Mavericks wing Josh Green, who injured his back earlier this week, was a full participant in practice on Thursday and doesn’t sound concerned about his availability when the regular season begins next week, as Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News relays (via Twitter).

Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, Collins, Sochan, Vassell, Johnson

Victor Wembanyama will receive an overwhelming amount of attention during his rookie season with the Spurs. He doesn’t believe it will be a major distraction for his teammates, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez writes.

“They know I don’t care about it (the attention),” Wembanyama said. “I’m here to make sacrifices for them and I think when it’s needed, they’re also going to make sacrifices for me. And they know it’s different. They know it’s going to happen. Of course, there’s going to be a lot of attention, but it’s at the end of the day when everything is done and we’re at practice and I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK, what do we do to get this thing better?’ So it’s really stuff we don’t care about. It’s basketball first.”

We have more from the Spurs:

  • Center Zach Collins marveled after Wembanyama’s first day of camp how the rookie can dunk from odd angles, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News writes. “He does a lot of stuff you don’t really see too often,” Collins said. “The way he can dunk the ball, he is so close to the rim and it looks so easy for him. And he is doing it from weird angles and his body is contorted in certain ways, but his arm still gets to the rim. … It’s a weapon we haven’t had before.”
  • Jeremy Sochan spent most of his rookie year playing power forward but he can play any position, Gregg Popovich told Kelly Iko of The Athletic and other media members. “He can play one through four,” Popovich said. “And depending on circumstances — who we’re playing, injuries — I could see him going to the five and us playing small. He’s like a utility infielder in baseball; maybe they don’t have that anymore. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s so competitive. He handles the ball. He’s one of our best passers. He’s really important in creating pace for us, that up-tempo style that we did so much better with last year. Very, very fun to watch.”
  • Devin Vassell‘s five-year rookie scale extension has an unusual structure, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Vassell will make $29,347,826 in 2024/25 and $27MM in each of the next two seasons. He’ll get $24,692,174 in 2027/28, when a potential Wembanyama extension could kick in, and $27MM in the final year of the contract. The deal also includes $11MM in unlikely bonuses.
  • Collins, Wembanyama and Vassell seem like locks for the starting five. Tre Jones is the logical choice at point guard, so if Sochan gets the other lineup spot, that would leave last year’s leading scorer — Keldon Johnson — on the bench, McDonald notes.

Spurs To Guarantee Zach Collins’ 2023/24 Salary

Spurs center Zach Collins will be with the team next season, general manager Brian Wright told reporters on Thursday night.

As Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets, that means Collins’ $7.7MM salary for 2023/24 will become fully guaranteed. June 23 is the last day the Spurs can waive Collins if they want to avoid being on the hook for that money, but it sounds like the team has no plans to take that route.

[RELATED: Early NBA Salary Guarantee Dates For 2023/24]

Collins, 25, appeared in 63 games for San Antonio in 2022/23, making 26 starts and averaging 22.9 minutes per contest. For the season, he averaged 11.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 2.9 APG. He increased those numbers across the board following the February trade of Jakob Poeltl, putting up 16.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 3.8 APG in his final 19 contests.

Wright’s comments on Thursday night come as no surprise, given that head coach Gregg Popovich suggested back in April that Collins would be the Spurs’ starting center in 2023/24.

Of course, Popovich made his remarks before he knew San Antonio would be adding Victor Wembanyama, which certainly changes the makeup of the team’s frontcourt. But Collins still figures to play a prominent role for the Spurs going forward. He underwent a minor procedure on his finger at the end of the season but should be good to go for training camp in the fall.

Collins will become eligible for a contract extension next month and will reach unrestricted free agency in 2024 if he doesn’t sign a new deal before then.

Western Notes: Gordon, Nuggets, Booth, Cooper, Spurs

Aaron Gordon‘s siblings noticed a positive change in his focus, demeanor and approach last offseason after the Nuggets were eliminated in their first-round playoff series against the Warriors, they told Marc J. Spears of Andscape. The 27-year-old responded with a career year.

As the team’s best defensive player, Gordon is often given the unenviable task of attempting to slow down the world’s best scorers. He limited Heat star Jimmy Butler to just two field goal attempts in 34 half-court possessions during Denver’s Game 1 victory, per Spears. Butler finished with his fewest points scored (13 on 6-of-14 shooting) since March 29, Spears adds.

Gordon, who had 12 points (on 6-of-8 shooting) and four rebounds in the first quarter en route to a lead the Nuggets would never relinquish, says he isn’t interested in anything but winning.

I’m not here for the credit. I’m here for the wins,” Gordon said in the post-game presser. “Playing with guys like the guys that are on this team is just a blessing. It’s a beautiful opportunity to play with guys on the team that have so much talent, have so much skill and have so much passion for the game of basketball.

That’s what I’ve always loved is to play the right way of basketball, and we do that here. I don’t care if I score 50 or 0, as long as I’m helping impact the game and we’re winning.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • In another story for Andscape, Spears details general manager Calvin Booth‘s influence on the Nuggets reaching the NBA Finals. “It’s pretty well known now the guys he brought in are a huge part of the reason why we’re in the Finals,” forward Michael Porter Jr. said. “Obviously, KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and Bruce (Brown) being two of those guys. But really the vets, too, as much as the guys on the floor, are contributing to us winning, like DJ (DeAndre Jordan), Jeff (Green), Ish (Smith), Reggie (Jackson). Those guys’ attitude and their leadership is just part of the reason why we’re doing so well. It’s really just finding a group of guys that mesh in the locker room is a big part of winning. Calvin did a great job of that.
  • The Timberwolves are hosting a free agent camp on June 14 and 15, reports Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News and Skor North (via Twitter). One former NBA player who will be present is guard Sharife Cooper, who spent his rookie season in 2021/22 with the Hawks. Cooper played for the Cavs’ G League affiliate, the Cleveland Charge, this past season, averaging 21.3 PPG, 6.3 APG and 3.8 RPG on .431/.316/.853 shooting in 25 regular season games (32.5 MPG).
  • As Mike Vorukov of The Athletic writes, the Spurs were the only NBA team in ’22/23 to finish below the league’s salary cap floor, coming in at about $14MM under the threshold. Because that amount is then distributed to the players, each member of the roster will be getting a check for more than $700K, sources tell Vorkunov. San Antonio might be the last team to go under the salary floor for quite a while, Vorkunov adds, since the new CBA penalizes teams for not spending enough.
  • LJ Ellis of recently took a look at San Antonio’s roster following the news that Victor Wembanyama will be in the fold. Ellis likes the fit between Wembanyama and big man Zach Collins, but thinks the Spurs will likely wait to see how they play together before contemplating a possible extension for Collins.

Zach Collins Undergoes Surgery On Finger

The laceration on Zach Collins‘ left hand that forced him to miss the final two games of the season wound up requiring surgery, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News.

The Spurs sent Collins home after he experienced finger swelling following Thursday’s game. Doctors discovered that the cut had become infected and determined that surgery was necessary.

“All the bad stuff is out of it now, so now I just have to recover from the operation,” Collins said. “They had to numb me up pretty good. I wasn’t completely out, but I was pretty loopy and couldn’t feel anything. They went in and pretty much flushed out all the infected stuff that was in the finger and now it is just healing. … I was in the hospital overnight. It was just so much for something so small. It was crazy.”

Collins isn’t completely sure what happened to cause the cut in an April 2 game against the Kings. He thinks someone’s fingernail may have lacerated his skin, or it could have been caused by the ball hitting his finger too hard. Collins confirmed that he jammed his left pinky and ring finger during that game.

Even though Collins’ procedure was relatively minor, he hasn’t been cleared to start offseason activities. He hopes that will happen at his next appointment.

“I meet with the doctor again (Thursday), and hopefully he can give me a better idea of when I can go out there again and work out,” Collins said. “He said he wanted me to stay around in San Antonio for about a week so they could monitor it after the surgery. But I don’t think it will be much longer before I can get out there and get going.”

Collins is eager to start preparing for next season now that he appears to have a defined role. He became the Spurs’ staring center after Jakob Poeltl was traded to Toronto in February and responded by averaging 16.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals over his last 19 games.

Collins’ $7.7MM salary for 2023/24 is non-guaranteed, but his spot on the roster seems secure after coach Gregg Popovich recently called him the starting center for next season. Collins is confident that San Antonio is ready to take a step forward after winning 22 games this year.

“We’ll be coming in with a different mindset next year, especially defensively,” he said. “I love who we have on this team right now, and whoever we add in the summer, I know the organization will grab people who will complement who we already have. And with the way we are coached, I am super optimistic.”

Spurs Notes: Collins, Popovich, Champagnie, Offseason

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.”

Texas Notes: Mavericks, Hardaway, Irving, Rockets, Spurs

Despite falling below .500, the 36-37 Mavericks remain intent on competing for a title this season, writes Eddie Sefko of

“The standings are going to change to the last game of the season,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “If we can get healthy and have everyone on the court, that gives us the best chance to win… We feel we have the pieces to be a championship team. We’re playing for a championship. But we just right now have to focus on the game that’s in front of us and that’s Charlotte.”

Over the past two weeks, Dallas has gone just 2-5, while slipping from the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference to No. 9. They have been without one or both of their two All-Star guards, Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic, in each of their past six games.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr. are both questionable to suit up for the Mavericks in their next game, Friday against the Hornets, the team has announced (Twitter link). Irving is dealing with a sore right foot, while Hardaway continues to struggle through a non-COVID illness.
  • Two Rockets players may not be available for Houston on Friday against the Grizzlies, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Small forward Jae’Sean Tate will miss another game due to his sore left knee, while center Frank Kaminsky is considered questionable to play due to migraines.
  • Several key Spurs players will be sidelined Friday night against the Wizards, as the team continues to tank. Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News reports (Twitter link) that rookie Jeremy Sochan will be shelved with a sore knee and guard Romeo Langford will miss the action with an adductor injury. The team’s second-leading scorer, Devin Vassell, is questionable with a knee injury, as is center Zach Collins, who is dealing with a biceps bruise.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Williams, Spurs, Sengun

The Pelicans’ inept offense has put them on the verge of a total collapse, William Guillory of The Athletic writes.

Despite Zion Williamson‘s hamstring injury, the Pelicans should have enough depth to hold their own. But even when Brandon Ingram returned from a long-term toe injury, the team continued to sink. New Orleans has a 110.9 offensive rating since Ingram rejoined the lineup, which ranks 23rd during that span, Guillory notes. The club is also shooting just 32.4% on 3-point attempts during that time.

Jose Alvarado and Larry Nance Jr. are now out for multiple weeks, further complicating the Pelicans’ issues.

We have more from the Southwest Divsision:

  • Ziaire Williams, a 2021 lottery pick, has bounced between the NBA and the G League this season. The Grizzlies forward played well for the Memphis Hustle and was recalled on Saturday but he’s not guaranteed of staying with the Grizzlies the rest of the way. “He’s taken full advantage of his G League opportunities as well but we haven’t made those firm decisions on what it’s going to look like on a week-to-week basis,” coach Taylor Jenkins told Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • The Spurs are one of the prime contenders for the top pick in the draft but the players aren’t thrilled about the losses piling up, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “We’re trying to get some wins to end the season, man,” center Zach Collins said. “We can’t fall into the trap of, ‘It’s OK that we’re losing.’”
  • Rockets big man Alperen Sengun is cognizant that he’s not getting crunch time minutes because he needs to improve defensively, Danielle Lerner of the Houston Chronicle tweets. “I just need to be focused on pick-and-roll defense, I think. I can do better job,” he said.