It’s only training camp, and it’s only been one week, but the early returns on a new-and-improved Meyers Leonard are encouraging.
According to some of his Trail Blazers’ teammates, Leonard has made an impression this week during the team’s two-a-day workouts.
“He looks good,’’ CJ McCollum said. “This is my fifth training camp and I think this is the best he has looked. He’s aggressive, he is playing strong, he is making shots. I think it’s just more about staying consistent with it through training camp … then transitioning from good training camp to good preseason to a good season.’’
Leonard, 25, entered training camp optimistic that he had improved his game after spending much of his summer working out with noted trainer Drew Hanlen in Los Angeles. His summer came on the heels of what he called a disappointing season in which he averaged 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 38.5 percent fro the field.
A 7-foot-1 center with soft touch and unique physical tools, Leonard has said much of his past struggles have been mental. After the summer workouts with Hanlen, which included a mechanical tweak to his shot and developing a “plan” in how to diversify ways he can attack a defense, Leonard felt he was as healthy – mentally and physically – as he has been since becoming the 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft.
His teammates agree.
Captain Damian Lillard on Friday said it’s hard not to see a change in Leonard.
“It’s noticeable. I think everybody notices,’’ Lillard said.
Lillard cautioned that it’s one thing to show confidence in training camp practices and another to show it against a real opponent. But he said he likes the first steps Leonard is taking.
“You can tell he’s trying to show something, he’s trying to prove it,’’ Lillard said. “The best thing right now, he’s really pushing (Jusuf Nurkic). He’s challenging him, playing physical with him, not backing down from him, making him have to play through fouls, making him have to run the court. He’s doing a great job alone, but he’s really pushing Nurk too.’’
The next test for Leonard will come next week, when the Blazers play home preseason games against Phoenix on Tuesday and Toronto on Thursday.