Following the announcement that Meyers Leonard will need shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season, CSNNW's Jason Quick reports that the fourth-year center hopes to return to the Blazers.
Leonard is in the final year of his four-year rookie contract and turned down a contract extension last summer, making him a restricted free agent this summer should Portland extend the $4.2 million qualifying offer.
"I wanted to tell Coach that I feel like my improvement has been great over the four years and that I hope everything is going to be just fine and I can stay here,'' Leonard said. "I just hoped there was no hard feelings, and he said ‘Not at all.' He wished me nothing but the best for the surgery.''
If it sounded like Leonard was saying goodbye, he didn't want it to come across that way.
"Hopefully,'' Leonard said, "I will still be here. That's my plan.''
Leonard made it a point to tell All-Star point guard Damian Lillard the news himself, as the duo came into the league together in 2012. Lillard has been a huge supporter of Leonard, pointing out that the big man 's impact on the game goes beyond the statistics.
While much of the Portland fan base clamored about Leonard's slow start shooting the ball, and why as a 7-footer he wasn't playing inside more, Lillard was continually preaching how Leonard's simple presence helped the Blazers offense because he forced teams to guard him on the perimeter, therefore spacing the court allowing better room for Lillard and CJ McCollum to dissect defenses. And Lillard often trumpeted the value of Leonard's size and strength were in guarding bigger centers.
"I told him to keep his head up, it's not his fault,'' Lillard said. "I told him to keep his mind right and understand that we love him as a teammate and not to get down about it. We would love for him to be playing, but at the end of the day you don't want to be tearing stuff up. He has to do what is best for his health.''