NBA Rumor: Meyers Leonard Free Agency

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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.”

Mutual interest between Miami and Meyers Leonard?

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.’

Free agent Meyers Leonard wants role on playoff team

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.”

Meyers Leonard unsure about re-signing with Heat

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.

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.”

“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.”

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.
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