The 2017-18 Trail Blazers roster will look extremely similar to last year's squad, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Portland is destined to endure the same struggles this coming season.
Jason Quick of CSN NW put a spotlight on one of those causes for optimism by taking an in-depth look at Meyers Leonard's grueling offseason workout regimen. After a disastrous 2016-17 campaign—one that resulted in a decrease in Leonard’s numbers across the board—Leonard turned to renowned NBA trainer Drew Hanlen.
Hanlen, who has worked with the likes of NBA post players Joel Embiid and Dwight Howard, set out to come up with a program that would get Leonard's career back on track. According to his conversation with Quick, Hanlen's first task was to find a remedy for Leonard's ailing confidence.
“But the first area we had to attack was the cloud that was holding him back – his confidence,’’ Hanlen said. “When he first arrived in the summer I asked him ‘From 1-to-100, how confident are you in your game?’
“He said, ‘If I’m being honest, probably around 30,’’’ Hanlen said.
After a full summer of working on his mechanics and playing in elite-level pickup games on UCLA's campus, Leonard appears to have made drastic improvements.
Leonard says his confidence level is “in the 80s” and Hanlen says in all his years of working with NBA players, Leonard’s progress is remarkable.
“From a confidence level, it’s one of the biggest jumps I’ve seen a player make in a summer,’’ Hanlen said. “And from a skill level standpoint, Meyers elevated himself multiple levels.’’
Along with increasing his mental strength, Quick highlighted the main themes of Hanlen's vision for Leonard:
The major bullet points of the rebuild were to tighten Leonard’s shooting mechanics; get him to play lower and less upright; and to develop a plan on how to approach various scenarios, such as when defenders rush at him at the three-point line.
According to Hanlen's conversation with Quick, the results have been noticeable. While playing against some of the NBA's top players over the summer, Leonard has drawn praise from his peers.
“I was getting compliments from NBA players like ‘Meyers is a beast … I don’t know why Portland is not using him,’’ Hanlen said. “Other players, they were bragging to me about him.’’
This is familiar territory for Leonard and for fans of the Blazers, as the former Illinois center has already been on the receiving end of a "remake" earlier in his career. This isn't a concept that is lost on the 25-year-old center, but he is certain that the improvement in his confidence will prove to be the difference this time around.
“I will say this: This is the most laser-focused I have been in my life. For sure,’’ Leonard said. “I no longer have thoughts in head of ‘Do I really belong?’ – I no longer have that and never will again. I’ve proven that to myself.’’
You can read Quick's full story on Leonard's offseason improvements by visiting CSN NW.