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'Just enjoy it' | Zach Collins' San Antonio teammates show support in his return to basketball

"Getting him back is definitely going to be great for us," Keldon Johnson.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Spurs forward Zach Collins made his return to the basketball court Monday night with the G League's Austin Spurs as part of his rehab from a left ankle stress fracture which caused him to miss the entirety of last season and the beginning of this year. 

Collins scored eight points in 19 minutes along with three block shots in a 127-124 Austin win over the Vipers.

"I'm pretty nervous before every game, but it wasn't anything that higher than I've been nervous before," Collins said. "Maybe a little bit extra because I hadn't played in an actual game in a long time but there was a little bit there but I wasn't too overly nervous."

Collins did not look timid at all and was his aggressive self since entering the league in 2017 with Portland. 

He was battling in the paint, not afraid to take the open three-shot, and showed crisp passing throughout the game.

As expected, there was some rust on his game. 

He went 0-3 from the three-line and showed frustration when a Viper player scored on him. He subsequently picked up a technical foul when he slammed the ball into the basketball stanchion. A sign his competitiveness still burns.

Overall, it was a solid return to playing basketball and he credits his San Antonio teammates for giving him confidence to play well. 

"The advice I'm getting from everyone is just to enjoy it," he said. "Enjoy the process. Have fun being back on the court and that's what I try to do."

With several Spurs going through Austin as part of their rehab from injuries or time away from the court in their careers, such as Jock Landale, Lonnie Walker IV and others, they were there for him to lend their advice.

"Just being around everybody," Collins said. "Seeing what their day-to-day life is like compared to what I was out before."

He has career averages of 5.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 17.5 minutes over 154 career games. He has the ability to knock down the outside shot shooting 44% from the field and 32% from the three-point line. That'll help San Antonio stretch the floor.

RELATED: Spurs assign Zach Collins to Austin Spurs

Depending on how his ankle responds, Collins thinks he might spend one more game in an Austin uniform before returning to San Antonio.

When that day comes, he says he may get very emotional when he steps back on the NBA court after last playing on Aug. 13, 2020, during the 2019-20 season restart in Orlando.

"I think it will be pretty emotional when I come back and play in the NBA," said Collins. 

And when he does, his teammates will be there for him. 

"Every time I see him, he's getting better and better," Keldon Johnson said following the Spurs' loss to the Suns. "To see him back on the court made me happy. Before the game, we were watching and cheering him on."

Said Johnson: "Getting him back is definitely going to be great for us. We can't wait to have him back."

For Collins, it will also mean having a sense of normalcy on the NBA stage instead of on the sidelines.

"It felt good to be out there," he said. "It felt good to be a normal basketball player again." 

Twitter: @KENS5, @JeffGSpursKENS5

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