Over all these years, there hasn't really been anyone quite like Meyers Leonard

Over all these years, there hasn't really been anyone quite like Meyers Leonard

I’ve been covering the Portland Trail Blazers on a pretty regular basis since the days when Jack Ramsay was the coach. I started several seasons after the championship but did write a small, sidebar story after the title game in Memorial Coliseum.

During that time I’ve missed very few home games and have become very familiar with the hearts and minds of Trail Blazer fans over that time.

Usually, they are a pretty easy group to figure. Play hard, don’t break too many laws or rules (unless you’re a very good player and then you might get away with it) and they’re going to love you.

Unless you’re Meyers Leonard.

They’ve just never taken to him. I’m not going to psychoanalyze anybody here – player or fan – but I’ve found, at times, the level of vitriol pushed his way over his Portland career rather puzzling.

Obviously, it hasn’t always come from just fans. A few talk show hosts have been all over him for a long time, too – perhaps framing the city’s conversation about him.

I get it that there is frustration that he earns a big salary and doesn’t play all that much. And there have been times when he’s played that he’s shown indecision or reluctance. There have been times when he's been buried so deep on the Portland bench you couldn't find him with a search party and bloodhounds.

But I’d also say on his behalf that for a player with such obvious shooting and athletic skills, his inconsistent playing time has made it difficult for him to build a massive confidence base. Or even a consistent feel for the game.

I never try to tell people how to be a fan. You pay your money and do what you want, as long as it’s reasonable behavior in a public setting.

I think, though, I’ve never run into a player in any sport quite like him and I should share a little of that.

Over the years, I can’t tell you how many players – a lot of them big fan favorites, too – who aren’t getting the playing time or touches or opportunity they think they should get, have tried to undermine their coaching staff or teammates.

By using me or others in the media. Little whispers, innuendo or just outright blasting people on their own side.

I’ve never seen it from Meyers Leonard – even when I’ve actually tried to get a reaction from him about limited minutes in games following solid performances. He just won’t bite on it.

He stays positive, works hard and tries to find his place on the roster. Listen to the way teammate Zach Collins talks about him:

“His positivity is really contagious,” Collins said Sunday night after Leonard’s solid shift off the bench. “He’s talking the whole time… you hear his voice. He’s super positive – a great attitude the whole time. On that backline defense you can hear him the whole time. You know he has your back."

Collins has seen Leonard behind the scenes.

“I’m really happy for him,” he said. “Obviously, I see it every day – I know what kind of work he puts in. I know how good of a player he is. He got an opportunity and he played really well.”

I’m pretty sure a lot of fans do not appreciate the caliber of athlete Leonard is.

“He’s a big-time athlete,” Collins said. “He’s strong and bouncy, man. A very good athlete.”

Leonard’s Sunday double-double came on the heels of one of his worst nights as a pro. Against the Lakers Saturday he turned the ball over the first two times he touched it and then missed a shot.

I know a lot of the frustrations here started early in his career when a lot of people didn’t understand his talent and how it fits today’s pro game. The man can shoot. From deep, too.

But people wanted to see him mixing it up inside, old-school style – which really isn’t the way the game is being played very often these days.

But he just keeps working hard, waiting for a chance, which he’s getting more often these days. Coach Terry Stotts didn’t waste much time getting him into Sunday’s game, even though Saturday was a bit of a debacle.

“I thought it was a good matchup for him,” Stotts said. “He played well early in the season. He had a rough three minutes in Indianapolis -- foul trouble and then Caleb (Swanigan) came in and played well. Then we played Houston and they played small.

“But I never lost any confidence in him. I thought the matchup was good for him and he played well. I was happy for him.”

I think everyone who knows him was happy for him.

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"A guy you love to play with" -- Meyers Leonard helps Blazers hammer T-Wolves

"A guy you love to play with" -- Meyers Leonard helps Blazers hammer T-Wolves

Before the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves tipped off on Sunday night, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told the media that their “frontline is fluid” and with Maurice Harkless still dealing with left knee soreness, the four and five positions are up for grabs.
And Sunday night, it was Meyers Leonard who got the call and who helped propel the Blazers to a 111-81 win over the Timberwolves.

In Leonard’s first stint, eight minutes that spanned the end of the first quarter until midway through the second, he scored eight points after going 2-of-3 from the floor. But it was his two emphatic putback dunks that really got the crowd going and seemed to get Leonard going as well.  

The Blazers team captain Damian Lillard enjoyed watching Leonard on the attack and seeing him make the most of his time on the court.

“Man, Meyers is crazy," Lillard said. "He came in and he had an impact. He had two tip dunks right away. He was rebounding the ball. He was challenging shots at the rim. I thought he was doing a really good job,” Damian Lillard said.

At the half, and before the game really got out of control in Portland’s favor, Leonard led the second unit with 10 points and five rebounds.  

“The truth is I was just out there having fun and playing hard," Leonard said. "I actually didn’t shoot the ball as well as I usually do, but you know, my teammates were looking for me."

Someone who has gotten close with Leonard this season has been second-year big Zach Collins. The two have been inseparable at practice and often sit next to each other on the bench-- in each other's ears, sharing stories during the game.

Collins appreciates what kind of teammate Leonard is on this team.

“We see it everyday. I know what kind of player he is, what kind of person he is and whenever he’s on the court, if he’s not scoring or getting rebounds or being at the rim, you hear his positivity is contagious and you hear his voice the whole time and he’s just a guy you love to play with,” Collins said.

Now in the seventh year of his career, Leonard realizes he is still thankful for the opportunity to see the floor, especially after having a rough performance against the Lakers the night before.

“The opportunity to play, the opportunity to get extended minutes is nice to have… It certainly helps me. Everything is situational with matchups and whatnot, but I do feel like when I get some time and you know, get in a rhythm, I feel good out there,” Leonard said.    

The Moda Center crowd cheered and applauded as Leonard came back into the game with 6.5 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.  

“Once the game gotta little bit out of reach for them, the crowd got into it and started cheering him on and you know, Meyers is a fun dude, you know what I’m saying, he’s a jokester and he’ll mess around. So he started making all those faces, doing all the extra stuff that Meyers does. It was fun to watch but it was even better to see the crowd get behind him,” Lillard said.

At the 2:04 mark of the fourth quarter, Leonard was charged with a technical foul after driving to the hoop and being called for an offensive foul against Timberwolves small forward James Nunnally.

After the technical foul, Blazers fans were chanting “Meyers Leonard” all throughout the Moda Center.  

“He was definitely excited. When you get a guy that big and that athletic excited there’s gonna be some good things happening,” Collins said.

But Leonard wanted to make one thing clear postgame: “There was no intention to try and disrespect him whatsoever. I was just out there competing."

For Leonard though, this season is not only about making sure he stays in rhythm even if he isn’t getting consistent minutes, but it’s also about being the best rim protector he can be.

“I continue to study my film hard, try to understand particularly last year why maybe I affected shots, but I wasn’t blocking shots and it frustrated me. I wanted to know why that was the case because a lot of times, I communicate, I understand what we want to do, but I don’t always execute at the very last moment… It’s been a lot of watching film and when you get in a rhythm you feel good, your intensity rises and just more opportunity for me I think allows me to continue to excel, improve and be an impact player on both ends of the floor,” Leonard said.  

Leonard finished with his first double-double of the season, 15 points and 12 rebounds in the win.

And, of course, as long as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts is pleased with his performance, Leonard could see minutes in the ever-changing backup frontcourt for the Blazers.

“I thought in the first half he played very well, got a couple of dunks, made his free throws, he was talking defensively and he and Zach played very well together. Obviously, he got a lot of attention in the fourth quarter, but I was really pleased with the first half," Stotts said.

With the 10th double-double of his career, Leonard had a chant-worthy game and a game that he had fun playing hard.  

"I had fun out there. That's all there is to it."

Short-handed T-Wolves just what the doctor ordered for Blazers

Short-handed T-Wolves just what the doctor ordered for Blazers

The Minnesota Timberwolves were just what the doctor ordered for the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday night.

After a tough home loss to the Lakers Saturday, the T-Wolves came to Moda short-handed and looking as if they’d like to be anywhere but on a basketball court in front of a large group of witnesses.

The final score was 111-81 but it could have been just about anything the Trail Blazers wanted. Without Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague, Minnesota was hopeless.

And the Blazers did exactly what good teams are supposed to do to such teams – knock them down, help them up, dust them off and send them on their way.

Minnesota shot 31.2 percent from the field and got mauled on the boards 66-38. And the Portland bench outscored the Timberwolves’ bench 44-23.

The T-Wolves were that bad.

But the Trail Blazers were that good, too.

Portland put up quarters of 30, 31 and 31 to make the final period a glorified summer charity scrimmage.

“It was a good bounce-back game for us,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said, “Obviously, they were a little undermanned but I like the way we played. I thought we had a good rhythm offensively for most of the game. Defensively, as well. But like I said, without Butler and Rose and Teague, they’re a little undermanned."

More than a little, but I’m not sure that was the total problem for the visiting team. They’re also dealing with Butler’s early season love/hate relationship with the team and all it’s brought along with it.

The Trail Blazers polished off their first 10-game stretch of the season with seven wins and Stotts tried to put it in perspective.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ve done some good things. We had a good flow offensively. Obviously, the second unit has established itself as an integral part of the team. We’re scoring a lot of points. Defensively, it’s been a little sporadic. But I think what I like is being 7-3.”

The Blazers got balanced scoring and pretty balanced minutes from their players Sunday. Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points, CJ McCollum 16 and Damian Lillard 18. Off the bench, Meyers Leonard scored 15 and Zach Collins had 11.

Leonard also had 12 rebounds en route to the first "Mey-ers, Leon-ard" chant of his career and first double-double of the season.

Back-to-back games at home are a rarity and Portland seemed to enjoy the quick opportunity to erase last night’s memories.

“We weren’t sharp against the Lakers and made a lot of mistakes we don’t usually make,” Collins said. “It seemed like they made us play quick because of how fast they play. But the biggest thing for us is we couldn’t dwell on it. We had a quick turnaround.

“Obviously they had some guys down but this was real important for us.

“Back to backs are definitely a little easier when you can sleep in your own bed. It’s not as difficult -- so we were ready.”

 

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Scoop Podcast: Game Day Routines and Dating Stories with Meyers Leonard

Scoop Podcast: Game Day Routines and Dating Stories with Meyers Leonard

This week’s Trail Blazers guest on the Scoop podcast is Portland big man Meyers Leonard.   

We are talking everything from how he met his wife, and side note... you won’t believe how many times she turned him down before they went on their first date, to dating tips and the advice he would give his rookie self. 

Plus, a look at the foundation he started and also we get the low down on Leonard’s game day routine from breakfast to tip-off as Meyers works to stay ready and focused despite only averaging 8.4 minutes per contest to start the season.  

I also found out how Leonard has changed his views on social media and what it’s like dealing with haters on twitter.

All that and more on this week’s Scoop Podcast.   

Trail Blazers take ownership with 'L' in Miami

Trail Blazers take ownership with 'L' in Miami

MIAMI -  There’s going to be games when a team gets off to a slow start or has a bad shooting night... that happens all over the league on any given day.

The Portland Trail Blazers came out sluggish and were outscored 33-22 in the first quarter against the Heat on Saturday. After being down by as many as 19 points, the Blazers were unable to complete the comeback, falling to the Heat 120-111.

“I guess it’s one of those days, man. We really can’t have that,” Evan Turner said.

There were number of things working against Portland—CJ McCollum getting into early foul trouble, Hassan Whiteside’s effectiveness down low, Maurice Harkless not returning to the game in the second half because of his lingering knee injury, the bench not bringing the offense as everyone has become accustom too.

There’s often a lot of lessons learned after a game like this, but for the Trail Blazers it’s all about taking the blame.

Without skipping a beat, Damian Lillard recalled specific plays that cost the Blazers the game, he knew what went wrong and that it was on him to take ownership.  

“We know they shoot the ball well and we miss a shot here, miss a shot there. One time Meyers took a three and I was on the wing and I should’ve been back and they threw it a head to Goran Dragic for a layup and then another time CJ missed a shot and he went after it, they push it up and our big is chasing the guard down and he jump into him, and then another one we behind the play, they push it ahead and kick it to the wing for three,” Lillard said.

It was another spectacular scoring night for Lillard, scoring 42 points, while also dishing out six assists and pulling down seven rebounds, yet, it was the defensive effort that Lillard was focused on postgame.   

“Plays like that, those situations are the situations where we got to be the most solid and the most disciplined and I think our discipline failed us in those situations,” Lillard said.

The Balzers went on a 17-7 run to start the 4th quarter, ending with Zach Collins hitting a three to tie the game at 96 with 6:19 left in the game. Portland then held a 106-103 lead with 3:07 to go.

“We continued to battle, obviously took the lead. So this is one we should’ve got. I think we were down 19 at one point, but credit to them they played very hard… We put ourselves in a good position to win and unfortunately, we didn’t close out the game they way we could have and should have,” Meyers Leonard said.

A big game changer for the Heat was big man Hassan Whiteside. He had 16 rebounds and six blocks on the night.

Collins took it him upon himself to take blame of Whiteside’s effectiveness. The 20-year-old Collins is ready to learn from his play against the 6-year NBA player in Whiteside.  

“We let him get some open shots that we probably shouldn’t have. I bite on one of his pump fakes and he gets the and-one. We gotta clean those things up, I personally have got to clean those things up. We’ve got to talk a lot more and I’ve got to communicate to the guards when we are switching out,” Collins said.  

It was at the 2:48 mark that the Blazers still had a glimmer of hope, down just one. But that was before Whiteside got an offensive rebound after Kelly Olynk missed his second free throw.  

“That was tough. I think Whiteside was on my back and I didn’t box him out well enough. He got over to Meyers’ side, you know Meyers will probably get, you know, told that he missed that rebound, but that’s more on me because I let Whiteside get to the ball… I got learn from that and I gotta realize that in a tight game that all that stuff counts,” Collins said.

Discipline. Cleaning it up. Learning from it.

When your team leader talks about tough situations that need more attention and focus and it's just the fifth game of the season, you can count on this team being more disciplined in the future. One thing is for sure, the Blazers are already disciplined in not putting the blame on someone else.    

Outsiders Podcast: Blazer comeback falls oh so short...

Outsiders Podcast: Blazer comeback falls oh so short...

It was almost a miracle in Miami as Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard were part of a late 15-2 run that got Portland back in the game in the fourth quarter but they were not able to fend off the hot shooting Heat. 

Joe, Danny and Shain have your fan perspective on the game on tonight's Outsiders Podcast:

A game the Blazers didn't deserve to win but almost did

A game the Blazers didn't deserve to win but almost did

MIAMI – It was a game that the Trail Blazers didn’t seem to have any right to win. And in the end, they didn’t.

But there was a time in the fourth quarter when the Blazers were in the midst of a run that sliced a Miami lead from 19 points down to a 96-96 tie with 6:19 to play.

But as so often happens in the NBA, the energy required to make a comeback from a big deficit can often lead to an energy shortage down the stretch and the Blazers got stuck with a 120-111 defeat.

Portland got back in the game on the strength of a seldom-used lineup featuring Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins spreading the floor, opening up the lane and also drawing Miami shot-blocker Hassan Whiteside away from the rim – where he had blocked six Trail Blazer shots.

“Our hand-offs and pick-and-rolls, they were getting a lot of attention,” Damian Lillard, who led Portland with 42 points, said of the presence of Collins and Leonard. “We knew their bigs were going to be back so having those two out there – they can shoot the ball and they were able to stretch the floor.

“When (Miami) loaded it up they both hit big threes. They had an impact on the game. The style of game we play, it was working for us. Both those guys did a great job.”

Leonard entered the game for the first time with 5:24 to play in the third quarter. Collins came in five seconds later.  Both played the rest of the game.

Leonard finished with five points and four rebounds and a team-leading plus-7 for his time on the floor. Collins had 13 points, four rebounds and two blocks.

Leonard probably got more time than usual because Maurice Harkless’ sore left knee kept him out of the game in the second half.

“Throughout the course of the game I stayed ready because giving them a different look in terms of spacing, screen setting and getting Dame and CJ and the rest of guards a little space to operate –-and keeping Whiteside a little more honest is an advantage,” Leonard said. “So I was certainly locked into the game as I always am. I was ready when I went in.”

Leonard had a key offensive rebound taken away from him by Whiteside late in the game.

But Collins took the rap for that.

“That was tough,” Collins said. “Whiteside was on my back and I didn’t box him out well enough. He got over to Meyers’ side and Meyers will probably be told he missed that rebound but it was more on me because I let Whiteside get to the ball.”

But the combination of the two outside-shooting bigs helped Portland climb back in the game with the room it gave the guards.

“Anytime Meyers is on the floor it spreads the floor,” Collins said. “He’s been a great shooter his whole career.

“We put ourselves in position to win but we didn’t.”

Coach Terry Stotts said, “I thought Meyers with Zach played well together. The group was going well. It was a good thing and I decided to ride it.”

Scoop Journal: FINALLY GAMES THAT MATTER

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NBC Sports Northwest

Scoop Journal: FINALLY GAMES THAT MATTER

Welcome to The Scoop Journal, where every week I empty my notebook of wide ranging Trail Blazer thoughts, observations, and randomness. I hope you enjoy this light-hearted weekly blog...


October 19th, 2018

Dear Scoop Journal,

THERE WAS A GAME THAT MATTERED!! Now it’s time to dump all my news and notes of the week in my journal….


*Rip City rallied together to honor the late Paul Allen.


*Thursday night’s home opener vs. the Lakers was CRAZY! It felt like a playoff game. The atmosphere was awesome and I got to see first hand what the LA and national media circus is like that follows LeBron James around—It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.


*Nik Stauskas is the new fan-favorite after one game. Seriously, the Moda Center crowd was cheering as loud as I’ve heard from them this season when Nik either entered the game or headed to the bench after he scored 13 straight points in the first half. Also, is Sauce Castillo the best nickname ever? Yeah! Nik wins for best nickname. 


*It’s going to take a lot of time for LeBron to figure out his team. He had six of the team's 15 turnovers. Ouch. 


*There’s something special about Blazer fans chanting “MVP” when Damian Lillard is at the free throw line AND playing against King James.


*At the end of Blazers practice on Friday it was fun to watch a mini 3-on-3 tournament between Anfernee Simons, Caleb Swanigan, Gary Trent Jr., Meyers Leonard, Wade Baldwin and former Blazer Steve Blake. Biggie was the loudest player out there. You knew when someone was about to set a pick.


*WE RECORDED THE LATEST SCOOP PODCAST!! It was great chatting with Meyers Leonard about how he met his wife and how she turned him down THREE TIMES!!! Plus, we talked about haters on social media. I'm looking forward to that podcast dropping soon. 

Throwback: Dwight Jaynes 1 on 1 with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen talking Meyers Leonard and CJ McCollum

Throwback: Dwight Jaynes 1 on 1 with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen talking Meyers Leonard and CJ McCollum

Monday was a sad day in Rip City with the passing of owner Paul Allen. 

The video above is a Dwight Jaynes favorite, a rare 1 on 1 interview with Allen from July 14th, 2013 in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League. 

Allen talks about two players who are very familiar to Blazer fans of present day... Meyers Leonard and his improvement from his first summer league to his second as well as how badly they wanted CJ McCollum in '13 draft. 

Trail Blazers amassed plenty of assists in preseason -- but turnovers, too

Trail Blazers amassed plenty of assists in preseason -- but turnovers, too

With the preseason out of the way, it’s interesting to look back at the statistics from the games in order to best understand the performances of some of the Trail Blazer players and the overall team. Here are a few nuggets – but please keep in mind, five games are a very small sample size!:

  • Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum each shot exactly 50 percent from the field. Lillard also made 50 percent of his three-point field goals while McCollum hit 38.9 percent.
  • The Trail Blazers made 41.2 percent of their threes as a team over the five games. They shot 46.4 percent overall.
  • They averaged 17.2 turnovers per game.
  • They averaged 25.4 assists per game.
  • Jake Layman shot 51.2 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
  • Zach Collins shot 56.3 percent from the field, including 50 percent from three.
  • Meyers Leonard shot 78.3 percent from the field and 72.7 percent from three.
  • Nik Stauskas shot 36.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from three.
  • Seth Curry shot 43.9 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu made 46.2 percent of his threes.
  • Since players don’t get a full load of minutes in these games, it’s best to evaluate their scoring averages based on an average per 48 minutes. Based on that:
  • McCollum averaged 32.4, Lillard 27.3, Layman 31.0, Jusuf Nurkic 30.0 and Leonard 29.3.