Sidelined for season, Meyers Leonard still envisions future with Heat

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Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel
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With Meyers Leonard, there are few short, declarative sentences. Thoughts from the sidelined Miami Heat center tend to come from the heart, with a depth of contemplation.

Monday, though, there were only five words when asked whether he thought he again would play another game for the Heat.

“My guess,” he said, “would be yes.”

Sidelined for the season after Feb. 2 shoulder surgery, and with the Heat holding a team option on next season’s final year on his contract, Leonard said his hope again is to get back on the team’s colors.

“My wife always says that I live with Disney goggles on,” he said with a laugh after the Heat completed their morning shootaround ahead of Monday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. “What she means by that is half full plus some. It’s just like whatever happens, happens. I just come to learn that hardship and pain makes you who you are. So we’ll see what happens. But I’ll give my absolute best to show my value in ways that I can right now, show that I’m getting strong with my shoulder and with everything else, and we’ll see what happens.

“But I will say this, sometimes you get a sense in life about certain places, certain people. I really like it here, and that’s sincere. The people, their values, what this organization stands for means something to me. So we’ll see what happens. Sure the business at the end of the day is a business. But we’ll see what happens.”

Leonard had similar surgery on the same shoulder in March 2016 with the Portland Trail Blazers. He said he knew as soon as it happened late in the Heat’s Jan. 9 road victory over the Washington Wizards that something was wrong, walking away from coach Erik Spoelstra and to the Heat bench.

“I’ve felt that pain before, unfortunately,” he said. “So I knew what I had done. It didn’t look that significant. I’m sure Spo was probably like, ‘What in the hell is Meyers Leonard doing?’ But yeah, I knew. That’s why I sat down.

“I couldn’t really talk for a couple of minutes. I was just trying to take some deep breaths and gather myself. But, unfortunately, I was in the weirdest of ways pretty confident in what had just happened.”

Following the initial stages of his rehabilitation in Los Angeles, where he had the surgery, he rejoined the team on the bench for games at Staples Center last week against the Clippers and Lakers, now traveling back to South Florida with the team.

“It’s obviously frustrating to have a season-ending injury and not only that, but being away from the team for quite a few games was not fun for me, because I enjoy camaraderie, I enjoy the chemistry,” he said. “I feel like I have a voice in our locker room, and that’s something I always want to be able to use. It’s important to me to do everything I can to help the team.

“So, for now, I’ll continue to use my voice. But, overall, I feel good. The early stages of rehab and just post-surgery have gone very well. You know, this is my second time with it. So I guess you could say I’m versed with it. So I’m going to take my time and make sure I make a full recovery.”

Leonard made himself essential after signing with the Heat in the 2019 offseason, moving into the starting lineup until a major ankle injury last February. Since then, the minutes had been limited. He had not appeared in the four games prior to his injury.

“I think I said this sometime last year, like I finally had what I wanted,” he said Monday. “Prior to the ankle injury, I was starting, felt that I had a significant role on this team, was helping us win games. And it just, honestly, brought a lot of joy to my life. . . .

“And, unfortunately, a couple of injuries have really dinged me up.”