Here are five minor but somewhat newsworthy bits and quotes from Portland Trail Blazers rookie center Meyers Leonard's question-and-answer session at Media Day on Monday.
1. Meyers Leonard Is Still Adjusting To Being Away From Home
Meyers Leonard is from Robinson, IL., a tiny town near the border with Indiana that sits on less than four square miles and had a population of less than 7,000, according to a recent census. Illinois' high school basketball goes up to 4A; Leonard competed in 2A. After graduating, he attended the University of Illinois in Champaign, the state's 11th biggest city and just a touch over 100 miles to the Northwest of Robinson.
As you might expect, Oregon feels far from home for Leonard. Really far. Really, very far.
Here's how far, according to Leonard.
Flights [to Portland] are expensive. Even though Illinois is halfway in the middle, it seems like you're flying clear to China when you come out here.
For you airplane nerds out there, a non-stop flight from Chicago's O'Hare airport to Portland takes roughly 4 hours and runs roughly $400. A similar non-stop from O'Hare to Beijing would take more than 13 hours and cost more than $1,100. All numbers courtesy of Google Flights.
2. Meyers Leonard Isn't Always A "Big, Goofy White Dude"
Blazers GM Neil Olshey stuck the "Big, goofy white dude" label on Leonard during his Media Day comments, noting how the 7-footer hit it off with Blazers assistant coach Kim Hughes, who is apparently a light-hearted skyscraper himself.
Leonard told Blazersedge that he definitely has a jokey side to his personality but he was unwilling to completely embrace Olshey's blanket label.
I wouldn't really take that label in itself totally. There's different situations that present themselves that have to be addressed differently. First day of NBA interviews at the combine, I'm in a full suit knocking every question out of the park. With Kim, after practice I might be being a goofball. It just depends. If I'm focused on, what I just picked up, [playing] my piano, I'm trying to focus in on what I'm doing. Different situations present themselves and every situation has to be handled differently.
I joke around. I have a good time. I feel like, so much in this entertainment business and especially in the NBA, it's not easy sometimes. You're traveling constantly, there's a lot of stress on you, the fans want to see you do well, the coaches want to see you do well, you want to do well. You're trying to represent your family, represent where you come from, so many stresses. People think it's just a breeze to be in the NBA and we get paid millions of dollars. That's not how it is. It's not as easy as people think.
But we are blessed in many other ways. So I'm very humbled by that and whenever I can have a light mood, I'm going to have a light mood. Put a smile on your face, there's no sense in walking around being a dud the entire time.
3. Meyers Leonard Cares About His Brother, A Lot
This one is self-evident if you've seen the recent tear-jerking video, in which Leonard's brother, Bailey, a Marine, makes a surprise visit to a University of Illinois practice. The two brothers went through some tough times as children; their father died when Meyers was a young boy and their mother has debilitating back pain that prevents her from working and limits her traveling.
Leonard sounded a bit disappointed when he explained why his family wasn't likely to attend many of his games this season. It was better for his mother to be around her support system, because of her health, and his brother has eyes on building a relationship with his serious girlfriend.
In the middle of that explanation, Leonard dropped this line, which really hung in the room.
My brother is trying to get back to civilian life as compared to turning a corner and normally having an automatic weapon in your hand.
It was a genuine, sensitive moment from a kid brother and you could tell, based on his body language and how quickly he moved on, that Leonard wasn't totally comfortable with the thought. There aren't many (any?) moments at Media Days that catch your breath and make you swallow. This was one of them.
4. Meyers Leonard Has Very Clear Ideas About His Weight
Back at Las Vegas Summer League, Leonard caught me by surprise when he started breaking down his training program and diet in detail. Here's what I wrote in July.
Speaking of Leonard and food, he blew my mind dropping the phrase "anabolic rate" in a sentence when explaining his dietary plans following Summer League.
Check this out: "It's a lot of loading up, but loading up on healthy things. Things that are going to help me, carbohydrates, good proteins, good fats, I focus on my diet and how my body feels. Get up, eat a good breakfast, that's the most important meal. Have a snack before I go to the gym or lift. Afterwards, eat up because in the 30-45 minute range, that's the highest anabolic rate that you have. You have to take advantage there. Have another snack after that meal and then go to practice again or whatever takes place. Of course a big dinner and then maybe something before bed. I do care about my body, lifting and everything like that."
A standard Media Day question is: "How much do you weigh?" Just about every big guy gets that one. By my count, Leonard had already answered that question in at least three interviews since Las Vegas.
On Monday, he expounded on what he thinks his ideal weight is and how it impacts his game.
As long as I have my energy and I'm playing strong and I can hold my own, it's not like, 'Meyers needs to be 260 or he can't guard so and so.' That's now how it is. Lots of times people focus on weight and how much you can bench. There's a difference between being that [kind of] strong and basketball strong.
I don't think there's necessarily a weight I'm looking to get to. Hopefully around 255. 260 is pushing it. As a big guy, with us, there's been some injury issues in the past. Putting on weight you tweak your left knee and you end up hurting your ankle on the right side. I'm happy with where I'm at right now.
I think I can keep my athleticism, be as quick and as agile clear up to 265, if not 270. [But] I don't envision myself being past 265. My body has always had a good frame. It's starting to fill out.
5. Meyers Leonard Has Been Through Some Stuff
Any comparison to Greg Oden is not fair and will not be fair. Strictly as prospects, the two do not belong in the same sentence. But the comparisons are inevitable anyway and the two players will be linked for the foreseeable future. Leonard's vital role in Portland is a direct result of Oden's wash-out.
Coming to the Blazers as a legitimate, established celebrity, we thought we knew Oden. Then his personality changed quickly and drastically and never came back.
Leonard -- not nearly as famous or recognizable -- has already joked that he can go unrecognized at U-Haul. He's made light of the so-called Blazers "big man curse." He's fresh, excited, anxious to learn and chomping at the bit, as you would expect for a player in his position, with moderate (but not overwhelming) expectations and an opportunity to play as many minutes as he can handle.
But there are flickers of a more serious side and, perhaps, some residual pain and stress that has still yet to processed.
This thought popped out on Monday.
A lot of times you see a smile on my face and I'm acting like a kid but as far as having to deal with real life situations at a younger age, as I progress through my life, I've been put in some difficult situations and some difficult decisions to better my life. I feel like for the most part that I've made the right ones.
I've been blessed, even through the tough times.
He said the last part with total conviction. To be clear: He's not feeling sorry for himself.
How will Leonard's career play out? No one knows. John Hollinger of ESPN.com, for one, is skeptical. The immediate takeaway from Media Day is that Leonard, 20, needs the hands-on support from Hughes and others. That's not meant as a knock in any way. His last year has been a whirlwind and, so far, he's acclimating just fine. There are many more whirlwinds to come. In Portland, that's impossible to forget. Erring on the side of over-protective just seems like the right play here. That seems like the strategy that's being followed too.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter