NBA rumors: Meyers Leonard: There's plenty of NBA teams who want me

Meyers Leonard attributes a significant portion of his absence from the NBA to season-ending shoulder surgery in February 2021 and an unsuccessful ankle surgery. On Monday, he reiterated his desire to return to the league and said there is interest. “As everybody in the room knows, there’s plenty of NBA teams who want me and that I could be playing for right now, but I’m just not healthy enough,” he said. “Did the incident help my case? No. But this time to heal? Yes.”

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Leonard hails from Robinson, a southeastern Illinois town with a population of about 7,150 people according to US Census data. He and Andrusier acknowledge his upbringing played a role. “Very small place,” Leonard said. “Very loving people, very hardworking, blue-collar people. But I wasn’t exposed to a lot of different culture, religion, etc. I just wasn’t. Does that make me a bad person? No. Did I make an ignorant mistake? Yes.”
Dealing with the backlash has been the most difficult obstacle of his life, he said. “To make it in this day and age, I think it’s slowing down a little, this cancel culture of sorts, but it was very hard,” Leonard said. “We’ll put it that way. I’ve been through some tough (expletive) in my life and just nothing compares.” Leonard said he was doing so badly that he sought professional help and began eye movement desensitization therapy, a nontraditional method of psychotherapy that targets post-traumatic stress syndrome.
As for Meyers' hoops career, he's gunning to get back in the league ... and says it'd be a dream come true to return to Pat Riley's team "I would be ecstatic if I could play for the Miami Heat again. I fell in love with that place, I really did. My wife and I love it there." Meyers continued ... "There's something about the culture there that's just me."
"I can honestly sit and talk for an hour about this. About all the different experiences with little kids in the Jewish community, to teenagers, all the way up to Rabbis, who have just been so generous with their time and so understanding." Meyers says in the wake of the comments, both he and his family had to deal with terrible abuse online, including people threatening to sexually assault and murder his spouse. "It's been a very, very long and hard process," Leonard says ... "When the death threats, and my wife is being told 'don't leave your house, we're gonna rape you.' And, these things. It was hard. So, a lot of these things are difficult to share, but over time I've been able to heal."
Meyers Leonard is breaking his silence and giving his first on-camera interview to TMZ Sports after using an anti-Semitic slur ... addressing the bonds he's formed with the Jewish community, death threats he's received, and his desire to return to the basketball court. "It's hard to explain," Leonard told us out in Beverly Hills. "The people who have been the most loving and the most compassionate, showing the most grace, have been so many people from the Jewish community."
Leonard said he is open to returning to Miami, where he loved playing for coach Erik Spoelstra and alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. “They have some big decisions and Pat (Riley) has come out and said most free-agent deals will be one year because they are trying to save for another max-level contract, and I don’t blame them,” Leonard said. “But I think there is definitely mutual interest. I loved it there, I really did. I loved that my teammates knew and understood who I was, what I stood for, my character and the fact that I just want to win.”
Meyers Leonard: "Now, I certainly have to continue to be aggressive and continue to advance as a player, but I know how impactful I can be. There’s times I watch film, and I’m like, ‘Holy s***, no wonder he just got an easy layup,’ because I’m pulling the 5 away from the rim. I shoot above 40 percent from three the last three seasons. So, you know what, I’m blessed. I’m thankful. This offseason is short, but I start Monday and I’m going to grind my tail off. I’ll be ready to go. The NBA is a business. I think there’s mutual interest between Miami and I, but we’ll see. There’s other teams that are very interested. I’m in a good spot. At the end of the day, I’m simply blessed and I’m very, very thankful for everything that’s been thrown my way.”
Meyers, you’ve proven yourself a valuable piece of some good franchises. Now as you enter this weird, short offseason as a free agent, what’s your hope or expectation? Meyers Leonard: “Sure, you know what, I do know and I do feel that I can help a team win, and that’s a contending team. I’ve said this to people before, when you look at Meyers Leonard’s ESPN stats, for example, and you see six points, five rebounds. First of all, I don’t chase stats. Could I shoot more? Sure. Do I sometimes get in trouble for not shooting more? Yes. Could I chase down more rebounds? Yes. Guess what? I don’t give a damn about numbers. I care about winning. I think that they knew that in Miami. I know that Spo and my teammates sure as hell did. I would tell Bam often, ‘I don’t give a damn about rebound numbers. You go grab 15, and I’ll block out their best rebounder and you come grab them.’
Meyers Leonard had an important role for Miami in the regular season: Starting center, 20 minutes a night, spacing the floor, giving the Heat some points (6.1) and rebounds (5.1) but mostly some size and solid minutes at the five. But come the playoffs, Erik Spoelstra made the wise decision of giving the starting spot and a bigger role to Bam Adebayo, who helped fuel Miami’s run to the Finals. Leonard handled it like a professional and accepted a role as the biggest and best bench cheerleader in the bubble. As a free agent, Leonard is looking for a role on the court again with a playoff team, he told Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.
“Now, it’s not even about the money or the one year for me,” Leonard said. “I know going into free agency, what I want is to compete in the playoffs and to compete for a championship, and I want to have a significant impact. “Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, I’m thinking 20 to 25 minutes. I feel that I’ve shown people, no question about it, that I can be impactful on both sides of the ball every single night, and that I certainly do bring value.”
Anthony Chiang: Meyers Leonard on his impending free agency: "If I had to take my pick, I do think it makes sense here in Miami." Leonard discusses what he wants as a free agent, his time with the Heat and his Coors Light cross-country road trip…
Meyers Leonard loaded up the RV Friday, wife Elle and Siberian husky Koko alongside, unsure of whether Miami was in his rearview mirror for a matter of weeks or as a permanent change of address. About to hit free agency, the 28-year-old center said he is unsure whether his Miami Heat career will be limited to 2019-20′s run to the NBA Finals or accommodations can be made for a return.
“What I do know is I truly love winning and I really loved being part of this quote, unquote Heat culture, I really did,” he said during a promotional interview on behalf of Coors Brewing, which is sponsoring his cross-country trip in the company’s Coors Light Chillstream.
A return to the Heat not only could require a pay cut, but also acceptance of a one-year deal, with the Heat potentially seeking to maximize 2021 salary-cap space. “Now, it’s not even about the money or the one year for me,” the 7-foot 3-point shooter said. "I know going into free agency, what I want is to compete in the playoffs and to compete for a championship, and I want to have a significant impact. Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, I’m thinking 20 to 25 minutes. I feel that I’ve shown people, no question about it, that I can be impactful on both sides of the ball every single night, and that I certainly do bring value.”
Would Leonard, who is on a salary of $11.3 million this season, take a one-year deal to remain in Miami for another run with the core of this Heat roster? The Heat’s other impending veteran free agents such as Jae Crowder and Goran Dragic will likely be faced with similar decisions this offseason.
“This league admittedly can be a bit of a business sometimes and you see every side of it, whether it’s somebody getting traded or a coach getting fired, whatever it may be,” Leonard said to Jackson. “But loyalty here [in Miami] quickly has been obvious to me. I’ve loved it here. ... I can tell [coach Erik Spoelstra] Spo appreciates what I’m about. That means a lot to me because I’m about the team. It’s not about Meyers Leonard ever, period. I think he appreciates that about me.”
But Leonard, who is due $11.3 million this season, is entering the final year of his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. “I have no experience when it comes to an expiring contract,” he said. “All I know is if I’m here, I’m ready to impact winning and it’s as simple as that. I’m going to bust my tail every day. I’m going to be a great teammate, a great person. I think you guys will get to know me pretty well, a fun-loving guy. And I’m just ready to rock and roll.”
Darren Wolfson: RFA Meyers Leonard is on the #Twolves radar, much like about 20 other forwards. Hard to see the Blazers not matching.
The Trail Blazers on Tuesday extended qualifying offers to Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless and Allen Crabbe, ensuring the three players will be restricted free agents beginning July 1. By extending the qualifying offers, the Blazers reserve the right to match any offer the players receive on the free agent market, which begins July 1. A qualifying offer is 125% of the players’ previous salary.
The benefit in restricted agency is that Portland controls the process up to a point. Building relationships with agents is one element of a general manager’s job that goes unnoticed by the public. The trust that GM Neil Olshey has built with restricted free agents Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe and Maurice Harkless, along with their agents, will be critical.
And as for the future, despite what may come this summer and potential offers that will come his way as a restricted free-agent, he’s stated his desire to stay with the Blazers. “I’ve been with Terry the entire time. Neil (Olshey)drafted me, being with our franchise player Damian,” Leonard said. “The future is bright here and I truly hope I will be a big part of it.”
It's unclear what the market will be for Leonard this summer, but his impending surgery surely doesn't help. When news of Leonard's season-ending injury broke Friday, more than one Blazers fans wondered if had played his last game in a Portland uniform. But Leonard dismissed that idea Saturday, saying he was confident he would remain with the organization that drafted and developed him. "The future is bright here," Leonard said. "And I truly hope that I can be a big part of it."
As he sat in the Minnesota locker room the night the deadline passed to sign an extension, Leonard confidently said turning down the multi-year offer from Portland wasn’t hard. “I’m betting on myself,’’ Leonard said, referring to his impending free agent status. Nearly five months later, after a season that hasn’t gone as he imagined, Leonard says he has no regrets about turning down the offer. “No. Not at all,’’ Leonard said. “Because I know personally -- and I think people who understand what I do and what I can continue to do – that the ability to give much more is still there.’’
Portland will have to upgrade its front-court, starting this summer, when Leonard hits restricted free agency. Portland got sticker shock at his asking price during extension talks last fall, sources say, and if they don't think he can defend well enough at either big man position, they may look for another stretch big; it's too early to earmark big minutes in that role for Vonleh. Serge Ibaka looms as interesting possibility in the summer of 2017, and Olshey surely has targets in mind for the interim. The Blazers are never going to get the tier-A free agency studs, but players and agents have noticed what has happened in Portland over the last two months. Lillard, Stotts, McCollum, and Olshey have put themselves in the derby for the next tier of guys. That counts as a massive success in year one of what looked like a marathon rebuild.
When he showed signs in last season’s playoffs of being able to handle his own defensively – at least in short stints -- against Memphis’ All-Star Marc Gasol, that began to change the focus a little bit. Instead of a special offensive threat who could spread the floor, Leonard was projecting images of being a complete player, a guy who could warrant 35 minutes a game. He was viewed so favorably by the Blazers brass that Leonard was offered what a source familiar with the negotiations called a “considerable” contract extension in November. Leonard turned down the offer, which if you want to believe what was reported as hearsay by an announcer on the New Orleans broadcast last week, was an offer of four years, $60 million. Leonard, at the time, said he turned down the offer, choosing to “bet on himself” in this summer’s free agent market.
Meyers Leonard and the Trail Blazers failed to reach an agreement on a conntract extension prior to Monday's deadline to extended players drafted in 2012. But the Blazers' big man is ready to move past the contract talk. "That it's over with I'm focused on the season, focused on doing whatever I can for the team," Leonard said following Blazers practice in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. "Whatever happens after the year happens after the year."
Meyers Leonard and the Trail Blazers were unable to come to terms on a contract extension before Monday’s deadline, as both sides agreed to revisit his future this summer when he becomes a restricted free agent. "I'm betting on myself,'' Leonard said after passing on the Blazers' offer.
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March 21, 2023 | 11:07 am EDT Update

Josh Hart hopes to sign a long-term deal with New York

New York is 12-4 since acquiring Josh Hart, who told Andscape that he hopes to sign a long-term deal with the Knicks. His wife is on board with that decision, too. “I want bigger things for my wife and myself,” Hart said. “Just find a home somewhere where we are valued and really like living there. And I think that can be New York. I would love for it to be New York and hopefully the organization feels the same way. Coming up, this contract is hopefully my biggest one, one where I’m making sure my family’s fully taken care of. So, I’ve also got to take that into account, too.”
Hart and his wife, Shannon, dated in high school in Silver Spring, Maryland, and they got married in South Beach Miami in August 2021. Shannon Hart is now pregnant with twins, the couple’s first children. It was tough for Shannon Hart to get support in person from family and friends when her husband played for the Blazers in the Pacific Northwest. But that changed when the Harts moved much closer to home after Hart was acquired by the Knicks before the February trade deadline from Portland for three players and a first-round pick.
“Portland was good, but it was just so far and I’m not from the West Coast,” Hart recently told Andscape. “It was tough. Not on me, but more so on my wife because she’s not a huge fan of flying. So, she’s all the way in the Pacific Northwest, not really flying, just by herself. That was one of the things that was weighing on me a little bit, just seeing her struggle with that. So, me being gone but being close to home, it’s been great.”
The new Series A round of funding is led by IA Sports Ventures and Eberg Capital, both of which are co-owners of the Miami Marlins, among other investments. There are a dozen other participants in the round: David Blitzer and David Adelman, both of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment; Fanatics founder Michael Rubin; VC investor Gary Vaynerchuk; NBA players Blake Griffin and Kevin Nagel; Lloyd Danzig of Sharp Alpha; Legends Growth Enterprises; Red Games CEO Brian Lovell; attorney Jesse Sharf, Accelerate Sports; and VC investor Eric Manlunas.
March 21, 2023 | 10:23 am EDT Update