Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports that Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts had a harsh assessment of rookie center Meyers Leonard following a blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
"He (Meyers Leonard) needs to work on his individual post defense," Stotts said. Gortat scored on him, Jermaine O'Neal scored on him. He's trying, but right now, he's a poor post defender one-on-one."
Stotts is clearly trying to send a message with those comments. But you won't hear Leonard disagreeing with his coach's critique.
"I got to get better at defense," Leonard admitted. "It's a learning process. I got to have better anticipation, better everything. So we just as a team, got to get better and definitely for myself."
Leonard made his first career start in place of J.J. Hickson, who sat because of a shoulder injury.
Leonard, 20, finished with 12 points, five rebounds, one assist, two blocks and two steals in 36 minutes. Suns center Marcin Gortat finished with 22 points and seven rebounds on 11-for-14 shooting in 30 minutes. Jermaine O'Neal had 17 points and five rebounds in 19 minutes off of Phoenix's bench. Phoenix shot 59.7 percent as a team and finished with 54 points in the paint.
Stotts' tone is different from the franchise's uniformly optimistic and patient approach to Leonard up to this point. Assistant coach Kim Hughes, for example, said recently that he would be disappointed if Leonard doesn't develop into an All-Star in the future.
"It will not happen in the first 20 games." Hughes said. "But if he progresses quickly, after 20 games, perhaps you'll see a viable result. We'll see it in practice first, but I think the public may see it after 20 if he's very fast. If not, maybe by game 40. But he will progress and he will get better."
"I would be disappointed if he's not an All-Star," Hughes said. "I have no fear of saying that. I've told him that ... and I truly believe that."
Blazers GM Neil Olshey has spoken of Leonard in glowing terms. In July, he offered this description...
"Great young talent, blew up his sophomore year, talent is off the charts, has a chance to be a franchise center, athletically he's a superior athlete, he's got an emerging skillset, great touch from the free throw line, face-up game, can score over his left shoulder, can be impact player on the defensive end, a great piece of our core."
Olshey offered a similarly rosy assessment at Media Day, although he did preach patience.
Meyers has been great. Finding a 7-footer who runs the floor like that. Who can make free throws, who can make jumpers, who has good hands, who can finish. I don't want to -- he's different. Going back to your point about Damian. Damian is a 22-year-old, four year starter at Weber State. Meyers is a 20-year-old kid who really didn't play much as a freshman. It's going to take him a little bit of time but I think every day we are in the gym he proves to Terry and the staff that they can trust him on the court and that they are going to need him out there.
He's a tough comp because he's really fundamentally sound but he's a really good athlete. Not to stay too true to the Dallas Mavericks situation, but he reminds me a little bit of Tyson [Chandler]. I knew Tyson back when he was an eighth grader at Dominguez High School. Tyson was more of a perimeter type player, he shot the ball, he handled it, he ran well. He had really good face up game. That's where Meyers is today. He doesn't have the defensive shot-blocking instincts that Tyson has developed but if you looked at Tyson nine or 10 years ago, he was more of a face-up, elbow guy. I think that's where we are with Meyers today.
He's an excellent, excellent passer. He's very comfortable at the elbows and the high post. The type of stuff we've been doing offensively, he's been a great facilitator. Running the floor as a dive guy getting to the rim, he complements LaMarcus really well in terms of floor balance. I think he's got a similar body structure as Tyson, similar mobility. With film, with coaching, with daily drill work, I think he'll get the defensive shot-blocking instincts.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter