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Blazers Coach Terry Stotts: Meyers Leonard Dropped To Third String Behind Joel Freeland

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Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts states that Joel Freeland has beaten out Meyers Leonard for minutes at the back-up center position.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

As Timmay! noted in his recap, Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts elected to play Joel Freeland as his back-up center in place of Meyers Leonard during Thursday's 90-74 preseason victory over the Golden State Warriors. Stotts previously stated that he would treat his rotation during that game as if it were a regular season game.

  • Freeland's line on Thursday: 2 points (1-for-4 shooting), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 15 minutes
  • Leonard's line on Thursday: 0 points (on 0-for-1 shooting), 1 rebound, 3 minutes

Here are Stotts' post-game comments via Mike Tokito of The Oregonian, which suggest Freeland is now the guy behind starting center Robin Lopez...

But the bench minutes showed that second-year big man Joel Freeland had gained a spot in the rotation as the backup center, which Stotts confirmed after the game.

...

"The role that [Freeland] has, he's earned a lot of respect from his teammates and the coaches by how he's impacted the game defensively," Stotts said. "He had two rim protections tonight, made an impact on the game. We need defense out of that position, and Joel's earned that."

Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com adds this and this...

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told CSNNW.com before the game that an ideal rotation for him was nine guys. Tonight he played only nine with Meyers Leonard excluded from that rotation. Leonard says he is healthy. Stotts just opted to use Joel Freeland as the backup center.

...

"Like I've said all along, I just go out there and do my best and whatever happens, happens," Freeland said after playing 15 defensive-minded minutes.

Here's how Freeland and Leonard compare statistically during the preseason...

  • Freeland: 4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 18.1 minutes, 34.2 percent shooting, 7 appearances
  • Leonard: 4.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 14.2 minutes, 57.9 percent shooting, 6 appearances

Here's how their 2012-13 regular season numbers compare...

  • Freeland: 2.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 9.4 minutes, 40.8 percent shooting, 51 appearances, 94 offensive rating, 108 defensive rating, 9.3 PER
  • Leonard: 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 17.5 minutes, 54.5 percent shooting, 69 appearances, 115 offensive rating, 110 defensive rating, 12.1 PER

Squeezing Freeland in for Leonard, a 2012 lottery pick, allows both Thomas Robinson (14 minutes on Thursday) and Dorell Wright (18 minutes on Thursday) to play meaningful roles.

The Blazers open the regular season on Oct. 30 against the Phoenix Suns.

PS Thanks to michaelkievaaa in the FanShots.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter