HOUSTON – Portland Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts is taking a different approach to the development of rookie center Meyers Leonard and it involves inserting assistant coach David Vanterpool as his pre-game workout instructor for the time being.
“Meyers is a very important part of our future and his development is one of our priorities with this season,” Stotts told CSNNW.com. “So we wanted somehow to take a different tact with him. Having someone else work with him on top of the work Kim [Hughes] and Dale [Osbourne] do with him, I think that is important.”
Assistant Kim Hughes has been the one primarily handling Leonard's pre-game routine and he still will be working with Leonard, but recently during a meeting, Stotts says he felt it was necessary for Leonard to hear a different voice.
“It's important for players to hear different voices and I think David giving a different perspective on things, playing in Europe and playing against some of the big guys he's played against in Europe, he just knows the game,” Stotts said. “I think it's important that players get the benefit of hearing different voices and different teaching.”
For two consecutive pre-game workouts, Vanterpool has been the one working out Leonard and there has been something noticeably different about the way Vanterpool's sessions have been running...it has included mostly post work.
“He's [Leonard] got a very good touch and he's a good perimeter shooter,” Stotts said. “He just needs to develop in a lot of different areas whether it's the low-block, or paint, or pick-and-pop, or rolling to the basket. There's a lot of things he needs to be more consistent at.”
Vanterpool usually works countless hours with the guards on how to attack pick-and-rolls, ways to create your own shot when guarded one-on-one, watching film, and a multitude of other techniques geared towards getting the most out of their backcourt.
Now helping with the development of Leonard's low-post game will be another task for Vanterpool.
“I don't like to put labels on coaches. I never want to pigeonhole any of my coaches,” Stotts said. “A coach is a coach. Coach [Kaleb] Canales is our defensive coordinator but I respect his opinion on the offensive end, too. I have a lot of respect for all my assistants and what they can bring.”
Last night during their workout, Leonard was posting up Vanterpool with his back to the basket as he worked on his fake towards the baseline before finishing over his left shoulder with the dunk or jump-hook. It's the same post-move Hakeem Olajuwon made so famous called the “Dream Shake.” There were some pick-and-rolls mixed in the session as well.
Leonard looked smooth performing on the low block, but admits that he isn't that comfortable with his back to the basket. However, he's willing to put in the work to become a better all around player.
“Whatever I'm told to do, I'm going to do,” Leonard said. “I love working with Kim and we'll always work together but throwing someone else in the mix is never a problem for me. It's all about hard work and getting better.”
Stotts preaches that we must be patient with the 20-year-old rookie.
“The progress that we're going to see with him is going to be over a long period of time,” he said. “You're not going to see it incrementally in a week or two weeks, it's going to be incrementally over months.”
What has changed about Nolan Smith?:
Over the last three games, Smith is shooting nine-of-15 from the field. By far his best shooting stretch in his brief NBA career. The reason for that is assistant Dale Osbourne.
According to Smith, Osbourne noticed that before Smith wasn't following through on his jump-shots. His follow through would stop at the midway point.
“He told me to just leave my hand out there to allow my follow through to go all the way," Smith said. "It has definitely helped with my shot. Little things like that make a huge difference.”