Leonard has a lot on his shoulders and it's not just the strain

Freeland sets out to be solid, team player

Leonard has a lot on his shoulders and it's not just the strain
July 12, 2014, 5:15 pm
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(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

LAS VEGAS – It’s only a minor setback, but it’s a setback nonetheless. Meyers Leonard’s strained left shoulder prevented him from participating in today’s game against the New York Knicks, a game Portland lost 71-69.

He is also expected to miss tomorrow’s match with the Houston Rockets. Tuesday is when he anticipates making his 2014 Summer League debut.

The incident occurred on the second day of Summer League practice, according to Joel Freeland, who takes blame for the accident being that he nudge Leonard on a box-out and Leonard’s left arm “bent back pretty far.”

Missing two games isn't going to derail his development, but Leonard does needs every bit of exhibition minutes to improve a game that is still very much raw.

“It’s painful but I don’t think it’s too serious,” Leonard said to CSNNW.com regarding his shoulder. “Hopefully I can get back soon as possible but I think I’m doubtful for tomorrow.”

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The 21-year-old center has a lot of weight on his shoulders and it’s not just the strain. Fans have become restless with his development and the local media absolutely pounds the kid. He’s well aware of the expectations of being the No. 11 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and he desperately desires to live up to it.

From the time he first stepped foot on an NBA court, the organization has been preaching patience, from management on down to the coaching staff. The organization insists Leonard has improved and progressed each and every year. No one is disputing that. They have the access of watching him in practice on a daily.

But sooner rather than later, Leonard is going to have to prove it with the bright lights on in a sold-out NBA arena. A breakthrough Summer League showing is supposed to be the first step towards reshaping what has been an inadequate first two seasons.

“We’ve got confidence in Meyers,” Freeland said. “He has gotten better. When his opportunity comes, he’ll make the most of it. He’s a good player. He just has to put it together.”

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The young seven-footer is as athletic as they come. He has a sweet touch around the basket that most point guards don’t possess. The tools are there. Bigs take longer to develop. That’s the simple truth.

However, in a league that has become notoriously noted for abrupt changes, Leonard might not get the time necessary to ripen before the eyes of Trail Blazer fans. That’s why this summer is so crucial for him. He has admitted that. The addition of Chris Kaman adds a little more pressure.

Here’s hoping he figures it out because he’s a good, respectable, honorable individual. Warranted or not, the twitter bashing and negative articles will continue if his game remains stagnant – in the bright lights, not in practice.

He has a lot on his shoulders this summer. The strain is just one of them.