As part of his extensive recap of last night’s game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Milwaukee Bucks, Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune waxed poetic about the character of Blazers centers Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard. Nurkic came to Leonard’s rescue after Portland fans booed him following a dreadful performance by the young reserve and the team as a whole. Here’s part of Eggers’ assessment:
Leonard has become the whipping boy for a portion of Blazer fans over the last four seasons. After a promising rookie campaign in 2012-13 — in which he had a 50/40/90 year — Leonard's performance has been below expectations. Many fans would like to see Leonard — in the second year of a four-year, $41-million contract — shown the door.
I'll say this about Leonard: Nobody on the Blazers works harder than the 7-1 center/forward. Nobody wants to help the team win more. Nobody on the team enjoys being a part of the community more. He is a good person, a man of integrity, a family man whom I hold a great deal of respect for.
Because he so wants to do well, Leonard puts too much pressure on himself. It's a shame, because he's a very talented, athletic "big" who could become a major contributor if he'd just relax and let it happen.
Nurkic is a golden boy in the city now. He gains nothing by complaining about the fans' reaction to a teammate. He lashed out, though, because he genuinely felt bad for Leonard, risking the fans' wrath for making his feelings known.
Those are the kind of things I notice about a player. And I liked what I saw from Nurkic on Thursday night.
The article features far more about the game, Portland’s performance this year, the wonders of Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Leonard/Nurkic topic.