Meyers Leonard: New trainer, new shot, new outlook as he vows to improve

Meyers Leonard: New trainer, new shot, new outlook as he vows to improve

LAS VEGAS – Meyers Leonard says he is getting better this summer.

The embattled Trail Blazers center has moved to Los Angeles for the summer and is training with noted NBA skills coach Drew Hanlen, who among other things has made an adjustment to his shooting mechanics.

“I’ve been working out a lot,’’ Leonard said Saturday while watching the Blazers’ Summer League entrant in Las Vegas. “I’m confident where I’m at in my progression this summer. And, I feel healthy. I feel as good as I have in five years.’’

In April, after a disappointing 2016-2017 season that was in part stalled by hip and back injuries, Leonard said he was entering this offseason with an excitement unlike any of his five previous summers.

Three months into his training, Leonard has even more verve. He said the first phase of his training with Hanlen has been centered around his technique, and the second phase will begin at the end of July with some one-on-one play with another Hanlen client, Philadelphia center Joel Embiid.

Later in the summer, Leonard said he will play 5-on-5 at the Clippers’ practice facility and UCLA, which are noted gathering spots for pickup games between NBA players in the offseason.

Leonard has been under scrutiny in Portland since he was the 11th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, a particularly after last season, when on the heels of signing a four-year, $41 million deal he averaged 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from three-point range.

After visiting with former teammate Wesley Matthews in Dallas over the All-Star Break, he took Matthews’ advice to change his offseason routine by hiring Hanlen, who has an extensive client list that includes NBA players Dwight Howard, Bradley Beal, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Clarkson.

“I’ve learned a ton from him,’’ Leonard said.

After studying Leonard’s game tapes, Hanlen determined that Leonard’s feet were too close as he shot, and that his shoulders leaned back slightly, causing him to aim his shots. With a wider base, and a concentration on quicker wrist-release, Leonard says his shot is feeling much improved.  

“There have been a lot of little, intricate things Drew has pointed out that helps me build a better shot routine,’’ Leonard said. “Hopefully that transitions into games to where I just feel really good with what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.’’

It’s a drastic change from last summer for Leonard, who went six months without picking up a basketball while he rehabilitated a surgically repaired left shoulder. He points to that inability to workout in the offseason, and the hip and back injuries during the season, for derailing his rhythm and confidence.

It’s why the Blazers coaching staff encouraged him this summer to not only workout, but engage in a lot of 5-on-5.

“I think the biggest thing for Meyers is he needs to probably get a feel of reacting to the game,’’ Blazers coach Terry Stotts said at the end of last season. “I think he needs to play a lot this summer and work on his reaction time on both ends of the court.’’

Leonard still fights himself at times over a career that hasn’t developed as quickly as he, or many fans, would like. He says he needs rhythm and confidence to succeed and for various reasons he hasn’t been able to attain that in Portland.

“It’s been rather frustrating for the vast majority of my career.  I feel like I can offer a ton more, but I work well with confidence, and kind of feeling good, and I don’t know that it’s always been reciprocated,’’ Leonard said in his exit interview with the media in April. “But that comes with the territory. This is the best basketball players in the world. An elite group of people. I have to continue to work and be better.’’

If anything, Leonard has become a student of the game, and his teammates – Damian Lillard in particular – point out that he is among the sharpest at knowing other team’s plays and communicating on the court. But Lillard in April said it’s time for Leonard to do less thinking and more doing, and that starts with a mindset.

“I think with Meyers, there comes a time where you have to take it personal,’’ Lillard said. “He’s got to take it as a challenge. A guy like that, you know, with such great skills – he has great touch around the basket, he’s a great athlete, a really good shooter and a really smart player -- so it’s just a matter of him putting it together and taking it as a challenge. I know if I was in his position, at this point I would just really take it as a challenge to put it all together and get it all done.

“I think his contract with our team shows that everyone believes that if he puts it together and when he starts to believe he can put it together, he will give us some valuable time,’’ Lillard said. “But I think its time for Meyers to really believe it, and throw himself in to becoming what he is capable of becoming. It’s not up to anybody else.’’

Leonard has heard those comments and says he has taken them to heart. More than ever, he has less excuses and is owning more accountability.

“I respect Damian just about as much as I do anybody, so I take that and I listen to it  and ive been working, man,’’ Leonard said.  “That’s what I’ve been doing. I just have to keep improving and see where this summer takes me.’’

When he arrives back in Portland, it will be to a more crowded frontcourt after the Blazers drafted center Zach Collins and power forward Caleb Swanigan. Although Leonard said he didn’t watch the draft because he was napping after working out three times that day, he knows the battle awaiting him in October training camp.

“I understand we took two bigs. It is what it is. That’s competition. That’s just the way it is,’’ Leonard said.  “The NBA in itself is a business. It’s my job now to come back to Portland at the end of the summer and show what I’ve done.’’

Kawhi wanted to go to LA and got Toronto -- call it Spurs' Revenge

Kawhi wanted to go to LA and got Toronto -- call it Spurs' Revenge

I have a few thoughts on that crazy all-star-for-all-star trade that essentially sent DeMar DeRozan from Toronto to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard. I find some aspects of the deal fascinating.

First of all, don’t cross Gregg Popovich or the San Antonio Spurs. Not only did the Spurs land DeRozan, a very good player,  Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick for Leonard, they absolutely managed to send Leonard to the polar opposite of where he wanted to go.

You want to go to LA, young man? Here’s Toronto, enjoy yourself. Toronto is a beautiful city but between the frigid weather and the taxes -- good luck. And leave your bathing suit at home. You can't get much further from the beaches of southern California than Toronto. The Spurs' revenge cut deep.

I heard a lot of people around the league talking about trading for Leonard – with just one season left on his contract – including a lot of Trail Blazer fans. Sorry, but that’s a terrible gamble.

Just because Paul George – apparently a victim of basketball’s version of Stockholm syndrome -- decided to stay in Oklahoma City, doesn’t mean any other one-year rental would make the same decision. George's decision to stay in Oklahoma was bewildering and I have to believe that someday he’ll be sorry.

And to think other players will follow suit and stay put just because George did is silly. You can talk about rolling the dice and gambling on the big move all you want, that's a very big longshot to go all-in on. And if the gamble doesn't pay off, the penalty is way too high.

The risk/reward on this one just doesn't pencil out for the Raptors. If you think it's time to trade DeRozan, that's fine -- but a one-year rental may not be the best idea.

 

 

Wade Baldwin may have an uphill battle for playing time this season with Trail Blazers

Wade Baldwin may have an uphill battle for playing time this season with Trail Blazers

OK, so now that we know Wade Baldwin is going to be on the roster of the Portland Trail Blazers this season, where does he fit?

Will he play? Will he be in the rotation? What will his role be?

For right now, I’m not sure those questions can be answered. Training camp and the exhibition season will certainly go a long way toward solving those issues.

But at this point, I’d say Baldwin might be in a tough spot.

The Trail Blazer backcourt is going to be as crowded as Interstate-5 North at rush hour, with some veteran players in line ahead of Baldwin.

If you’re thinking about him as the prime candidate to back up Damian Lillard at the point, you might be disappointed. Don’t forget that the Trail Blazers signed free agent Seth Curry and he’s come into his own as an NBA player. He's no longer just somebody's little brother.

While Curry has never been known as a distributor, he can certainly shoot the ball – perhaps Baldwin’s weakest area.

For his career, Curry has shot 47.3 percent from the field and 43.2 percent from three-point range. And yes, we’re talking about SETH Curry, not his brother STEPH.

Now I’m pretty sure Baldwin would have an edge over Curry at the defensive end of the court and may be a better playmaker. He's also the team's biggest and most physical point guard and is capable of playing at a very fast pace.  And one more thing in his favor -- he is a player Portland got for nothing who is quickly rebuilding his value as a one-time first-round pick. At some point, he could be a valuable trade piece.

That said, in today’s NBA, the game is becoming all about firepower –- and mostly long-range firepower. Curry can provide that to a team that needs an injection of accurate three-point shooting.

It’s also reasonable to expect rookie Anfernee Simons to get some playing time at one of the guard spots. Yes, he’s young but he’s a special player who needs to play if he’s not optioned to a G-League team.

Add in the projected off-guards on this squad – Nik Stauskas and Gary Trent Jr. – and you can see that Coach Terry Stotts has some decisions to make.

He has a crowd of interesting players at off-guard and could make a little more room for them on the court by using CJ McCollum as a backup point guard frequently.

Baldwin is going to be in the same position he’s been in for most of his career:

How much he plays will be up to him. And he’s probably going to have to play pretty well to earn a regular spot in the rotation.

 

 

Social media reacts to the 2018 Summer League Champs

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USA Today Img.

Social media reacts to the 2018 Summer League Champs

To say the Blazers are excited for this championship is an understatement. Hoist the trophy high, veterans excited for their rookies, and much more on social media reacting to this championship!

 

The rookies went to Twitter following the win, excited to bring the trophy home to Portland:

 

Even the rookies alma mater's chimed in:

 

So... about the championship parade... 

 

LINKS:

Read: Give credit to the Summer League Coaches

Read: Wade Baldwin feels good about his chances

Watch: Why winning Summer League matters

Credit Blazer coaching staff with a great job this summer

Credit Blazer coaching staff with a great job this summer

Moving forward, I'm not sure we can draw any conclusions about how much value -- if any -- Portland's summer-league championship will bring to the franchise moving forward. But I can say one thing for sure: it's a great tribute to the Portland coaching staff.

For the second summer in a row, the Trail Blazers assembled a roster of players who came together at both ends of the court. This year's championship team dominated every team it played and offensive execution and defensive aggression were a big part of that. And that is coaching. Head coach Jim Moran does a great job with his teams but the credit doesn't stop there. The entire Trail Blazer coaching staff -- Nate Tibbetts, David Vanterpool, Dale Osbourne and John McCullough -- contributes to the summer-league effort and these guys get only three or four days to organize and coach their squad before its first game.

And somehow, they create a solid team in a very short amount of time that plays the game hard and plays it right.

And it must also be pointed out that Neil Olshey has provided his young players a great chance to learn and improve by surrounding them in summer league with unselfish journeymen veterans who know how to play. This season it was K.J. McDaniels, Archie Goodwin and John Jenkins -- solid vets playing to land a job in the NBA or overseas -- combining with experienced Portland players Jake Layman and Wade Baldwin IV to give the youngsters a chance to succeed.

Time to say a few things about individual players who suited up for Portland's summer unit:

  • Anfernee Simons -- Way better than I expected him to be. Not intimidated and very obviously talented.
  • Gary Trent Jr. -- A pro shooter. He knows where he wants to get his shots and how to get them.
  • Wade Baldwin IV -- A legit NBA player who continues to improve. He's defending people well enough to get them mentally off their game. Man, does he need help at the foul line, though.
  • Jake Layman -- If he can bring that offensive confidence and jump shot into training camp, he's going to get rotation minutes this season.
  • Caleb Swanigan -- I'm never sure of what to expect from him. He has NBA rebounding and passing skills but struggles when playing against size.
  • Zach Collins -- He's coming along fast as a defender but would love to see him be able to consistently make shots.

In summary, you can make whatever summer-league victory parade and championship-ring jokes you want, but winning is fun no matter where you do it. And very often a lot or work behind the scenes goes into the effort.

 

 

Wade Baldwin feels good about his chances

Wade Baldwin feels good about his chances

Updated Thursday, July 19th - With the deadline now passed, Baldwin's contract is now fully guaranteed. The original story appears below.

LAS VEGAS - Wade Baldwin, who earned 2nd Team All-Summer League honors, said his goal was to go ‘full throttle’ and show during Summer League that he deserves to be on this Trail Blazers roster.

The deadline for the Blazers to make a decision on Baldwin’s guaranteed contract is July 18th at 11:59pm, when the clock strikes midnight, his contract becomes guaranteed.

While sporting his Championship shirt proudly, Baldwin told the media he feels good about his chances.

“I think I put myself in the best position possible in terms of accomplishments that I’ve made. In terms of being a winner, coming in here undefeated,” Baldwin said.

One person who will have some say in that is head coach Terry Stotts.
Over the last few years, the final day of Las Vegas Summer League for the Trail Blazers meant Stotts would offer up his thoughts and talk with the media members that were still around, and yes even after the team wins a Summer League Championship.

“I was really pleased with how we played, not how well we played. Obviously, it was a good week, but more importantly, we’re going to have six guys from this team that are going to be on our team and it was how they came together, how they played, they shared the ball. It was different guys, different nights, it was very encouraging,” Stotts said.

Yes, Stotts did say six players from this roster.
So, was that just a subconscious slip or is Wade Baldwin a member of this team next season? Baldwin averaged 13.4 points and 7.4 assists (3rd best in Summer League) in 25.4 minutes per game.   “It’s a team decision and I’ve talked with Neil and obviously the decision has to be made soon. It’s not my position to say what’s going to happen,” Stotts said.

[WATCH: The Scoop Postgame Show]
 

Blazer fans have been wondering who could take backup point guard minutes with Shabazz Napier now heading to Brooklyn.

After Baldwin led this Summer League team on both offense and defense, it would make sense for him to stick with Portland.
“The resume is out there. It’s up for whatever team it is or Portland to make a decision on what they want to do with me. I felt like I left it all out there and did the best I could,” Baldwin said with a smile.

One young guy who will be back in a Blazers uniform next season is Zach Collins, who finished Summer League averaging 8.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but it’s not his play that he attributes a lot of the team’s success to this year.

“We have a really good leader in Wade Baldwin at the point guard position and that’s huge coming into Summer League, being able to control the game. Summer League sometimes is really chaotic, he did a really good job of being our floor general,” Collins said.  

For a Blazers team who has lacked defensive intensity at the guard position, Baldwin would be a great asset to have coming off the bench. 

Let the countdown begin for Blazer fans waiting to see if the guy who gave James Harden fits in the regular season last year and now that same guy who led this summer league team to a championship will be back with the Blazers.

We have just hours left of Baldwin Watch 2018.

 

Outsiders demand Summer League Championship T-Shirts!

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NBCS NW

Outsiders demand Summer League Championship T-Shirts!

Joe, Shain and Dan held a special postgame edition of the Outsiders on Tuesday night to celebrate the Summer League Championship!

If you missed the show, check out the link below, join them in a toast and enjoy the look back at the Summer League run.

Blazers Outsiders

BLAZERS WIN THE LAS VEGAS SUMMER LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP! It’s time to celebrate with the Outsiders.

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Scoop: Blazer enact revenge on Laker, #BeatLA

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NBCS NW

The Scoop: Blazer enact revenge on Laker, #BeatLA

There may not be a parade for this Championship but the Trail Blazers Summer League Team was very proud of their tournament win on Tuesday night. 

The Scoop was live streaming postgame as fans weighed in what this means, player evaluations, and how any of this might translate to the regular season:

Summer League Scoop Postgame

Your Portland Trail Blazers are the 2018 NBA Summer League Champs!!! The Blazers beat the Lakers, 91-73 #RipCity How you feeling, Scoop Nation!?

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trail Blazers waive Georgios Papagiannis

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NBCSNW

Trail Blazers waive Georgios Papagiannis

The Trail Blazers have waived big man Georgios Papagiannis.

He plans to sign with Greece's Panathinaikos, which was first reported by Eurohoops. 

According to Eurohoops, "Panathinaikos has already included Papagiannis in the club’s long-term plans and are ready to add him with a three-year contract."

Papagiannis was first acquired by Panathinaikos when he was 17 years old and spent two seasons with the team before joining the NBA.

The 7'1" big appeared in 6 games during the Las Vegas Summer League where he averaged 1.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in just 7.5 minutes per game. 

Portland acquired Papagiannis this past March after he was waived by the Sacramento Kings, who drafted him in 2016 with the 13th overall pick.

Papagiannis appeared in just one game for the Blazers, playing four minutes of a 96-94 loss to the Houston Rockets 

He averaged 4.1 points and 3.2 rebounds over the course of 39 appearances over two seasons in the NBA.

Trail Blazers Are Summer League Champions!

Trail Blazers Are Summer League Champions!

LAS VEGAS - The Trail Blazers got revenge on the LA Lakers to pull out a victory in the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League Championship Game by a score of 91-73. 

It was a rematch of last year's summer league finale, but this time the Trail Blazers came out on top thanks to a strong defensive performance that held the Lakers to just 14.3% from the 3 point line. 

Players and Coaches had talked all week about how winning NBA Summer League was a goal for this team from the beginning, and tonight they finished what they started. 

Summer League MVP Josh Hart was ejected after his second technical with 4:45 to go in the game, but the Lakers trailed big at that time anyways. 

Portland finished the summer league a perfect 7-0 including both pool play and the tournament. 

BOX SCORE: Portland 91, LA 73

Be sure to follow us on social media for all kinds of postgame videos, a special interview with Head Coach Terry Stotts, and photos from the ceremony!

POSTGAME LINKS:
The Scoop Postgame Show
Trail Blazers Outsiders - Live Stream
Trail Blazers waive Georgios Papagiannis
Why did this summer league team click?