Jan. 04, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts talks with Portland Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard (11) during the third quarter of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Moda Center. The Sixers won the game 101-99. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

An Open Letter to Meyers Leonard

Dear Meyers Leonard:

Hello! How are you? It’s been a fine day hasn’t ? Or perhaps you haven’t been in Portland? It’s tough to tell since you blocked me from Twitter.

Anyway, my name is Brandon. I am writing you today to admit that I have not been your biggest fan.

I have been unduly harsh. I have criticized your boxouts, your defense, your picks, your hair, and even your work ethic and toughness. That can’t be an easy thing to hear for someone in their early 20s, on a national stage, expected to be one of only a few hundred people on the planet to perform well at something you’ve only done for a short time. And the hair critiques… that has to sting. You have a PERFECT hairline, great color and volume. The criticism just doesn’t seem right.

And Meyers, for the most part, it’s not. My expectations of you were so high. When I watched you in Summer league in 2012, I was blown away not only by your athleticism, but your coordination. There are few people who are that tall, that proportionate, that fast, and that un-awkward. The stats didn’t matter, and neither did the fact that your domination of lesser competition never came to be. What mattered is that you were a project, a gem to be polished, an ore to be refined, a fine wine to be aged.

Maybe we expected you to turn from coal to a diamond overnight. Maybe we expected that three buck chuck to become a Chateau Margaux in less than a full season. Maybe the lack of court awareness bothered people more than a lack of basketball knowledge, that your mistakes were the wrong kinds of mistakes, that they didn’t go away quickly enough.

Whatever the case, you’ve gotten some of the most pointed, harshest criticism about your game (not your character, but your game) than any Blazer this side of Raymond Felton. I took part in that. And I’d like to say I’m sorry.

We should realize that development can come in gradients, yes. It can bee a smooth arc. But sometimes it’s halting. Sometimes it comes in great gasps, sucker punches of epiphanies that come so hard you didn’t even know they hit you.

Sometimes it comes tough. Sometimes it comes slow. And it’s impossible for any of us to know what kind of development a player will show in the NBA until they are there.

When the Blazers gave exit interviews after their second-round loss to the eventual champions San Antonio Spurs, who was the hot topic of conversation? Who was the common thread between the questions asked of all players? It was you, Meyers. Another reminder that you are being watched, being judged, being evaluated even after an incredible season in which many other players offered greater roles and, thus, were maybe more deserving of attention.

You handled it admirably. Said you wanted to get better. Said you owed it to the team. Said you’re going to be relevant. Said you don’t want to let anyone down.

From here on out, you should feel no more guilt. The only pressure weighing on you should be that which you place upon yourself to be better; not because jackasses like me froth from behind keyboards and demand it of you, but because you demand it of yourself.

I wish you the very best in that pursuit. You have my support, and the support of many others.

Your best pal Someone you’ve never heard of,

- Brandon Goldner




Tags: Meyers Leonard Portland Trail Blazers

  • Draftdog

    Well Brandon, if you were one of those bad mouthing my man Meyers then you should be ashamed and I, not that it means anything, will forgive you. He will one day be a monster!

  • Trevor Westerdahl

    I have never blamed Leonard. I believe its only appropriate to blame a player and openly criticize them when they show, clearly, some form of overwhelmingly bad judgment. For example, Felton deserved criticism by a clear lack of effort to stay in shape. His change in one off season was remarkable. He exacerbated the problem with his demeanor.
    My problem is with the blazers training and development. One game after another, it becomes clear that Leonard has no idea how to quickly assess where players are located and where he should stand in response, how he should stand, where should his feet be placed, his shoulders, his arms, etc. When people say he is lost… he really is lost.
    I think many people started to get upset with Meyers because when he was asked about his development after last summer, he repeatedly talked about practicing hitting 3s and outside shots. Everyone knew, that was the LAST area that deserved his concentration.
    So, how did that happen? Doesn’t he have coaches that explain to him where to focus? Doesn’t he have a trainer dedicated to setting up practice sessions designed to develop his skills? Trainers that should START that training by concentrating on his positioning and court awareness.
    So how did that happen last year? Was it his trainers that sent him to the three point line? Was he left to figure out what to do own his own? I believe its the trainers because nearly ALL of the Blazers bench seem to show underwhelming progress. If I was tasked with player development and was assigned Meyers Leonard, I would place him on the court, position his teammates, position the opposing team, and then setup lessons…
    Player A moves here, what do you do? Player A moves there instead, what do you do? Why? He wouldn’t practice another thing (no free throws, no jump shots, no 3s, no offensive sets, nada) until he was no longer lost on defensive positioning. Seriously, how long would it take with sessions like that for Meyers to finally move where he needs to… instinctively. It is so dang obvious that he is thinking one move too late when he is out there.
    Yep, Meyers, I don’t blame you at all. I think you need staff that knows how to train development level players. Somebody go spy on the Spurs and get that info up to Portland.. stat!