Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns will leave in 2022-23 from the lane of heterodoxy and as a last breath before Jorque Manrique’s song for which it seems that any time passed was better. For their part, Malik Beasley, Jaxson Hayes or Liz Cambage escape almost unscathed from a minefield that includes domestic violence, vandalism, racism, drug possession and threats with a firearm.
Two things that have nothing to do with each other but if we force the mix, we end up talking about Meyers Leonard, involuntary figurehead and scapegoat, in pajamas and without equipment. NBA, things happen.
Role player: one of many
Meyers Leonard has two problems, or better said, two reasons, that currently make him look out of the NBA: the first is that he lacks a fairway, and the second is that he is not an Elton Brand; I mean, a guy who’ll rate you 20/10. Twenty points and ten rebounds per game.
And yet, and more than some may weigh (either because of their tastes or because of their prejudices), the former Heat and Blazers center was performing at a good level when he was forced to ‘leave’ the circuit. His numbers, far from crazy, exemplified the rough façade of a more than useful rotation player in a serious team like the 2020 Miami Heat.
Leaving the starter, he barely touched twenty minutes on average, to which he responded with interesting projections of 11 points and 9 rebounds in 36 minutes, under a true shooting of 63%. The least relevant piece of Spoelstra’s initial quintet (minimum usage 12%) achieved a positive impact that invited an improved arch. As a paradigm of this, of his poor use, his shot of three: with a success that touches 40% throughout his career (and regularly exceeding 42%), only one year he allowed more than three attempts per game .
The ex of the Fighting arrived at the NBA in a risky 11th pick with the flag of a good defender to soon surprise in the opposite direction. Almost non-existent defense and better attack than expected. After years of training he managed to become a correct finisher (good screens and endings to the pick and roll) and a reliable stopper (although clumsy in the use of fouls) to get rid of in the paint. His good exterior wrist allowed him to open the court to end up being ‘a six’ in multiple categories and with a notable presence on inspired nights.
The 2019-20 season ended with the Heat runners-up, and as soon as the next one started, the one that looked like his consolidation in Florida, a shoulder injury sent him home and… the rest is (sad) history:
An ordinary night of video games on Twitch, an unfortunate comment, an unforgivable ignorance for the Twitter radar and a pharisaical NBA that, not from action but from comfortable omission, saw the ideal opportunity to do nothing. Just watch, from his condescending easy chair, how the sword of Damocles glides over Meyers Leonard and hopelessly.
Knees to the ground and pain to the wind
It was August 2020, with the coronavirus taking air and Black Lives Matter in full eruption, when Leonard decided to stand firm on days of knees to the ground and pain in the wind. He wasn’t the first to do it; but it is not hard to imagine that his gesture may be different from that of Jonathan Isaac or Gregg Popovich. white player. Marine brother. ‘Caposo compatriot’ despite the fact that he wore the movement’s shirt.
After the meeting he said this:
“I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people. I cannot fully comprehend how our world has literally and metaphorically become black and white. There are two sides apparently: ‘If you’re not kneeling, you’re not with us’. And that is not true. I will continue to use my platform, my voice, and my actions to show how much I care about Black culture and for everyone – I live my life to serve and influence others in a positive way.”
Valid behavior, even applaudable, for some; first shovelfuls of dirt on his mediatic grave for others.
The day after D-Day
I said before that the NBA steered clear of Leonard and his meltdown, which isn’t entirely true. His: “Fucking cowards! Don’t shoot me, fucking ‘kike’», in the heat of Call of Duty fever had an immediate reaction from the League. Banned from his team for a week and fined $50,000; furthermore, the center should participate in a cultural diversity program.
“Meyers Leonard’s comment is inexcusable and hurtful. Such an offensive term has no place in the NBA or in our society.” It was the message sent by the NBA, through Adam Silver, through a statement.
That same day, with blows raining down on him from everywhere, the player made his apologies public – our opinion on the degree of sincerity of the same, taking into account what we all know about Leonard in short distances, we could save it.
The facts, since then, narrate the following. The Heat didn’t exercise his $9.4 million team option, which is understandable given his long-term injury. Instead they preferred to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he was cut a week later. Since then, December 25, 2021, Leonard, a 30-year-old player with a nine-year NBA career, lost most of his sponsorships and is without a team.
During this time, and almost in the shadows, Leonard has been purging his error, and not only facing the gallery. Within two days of the incident he contacted a Florida-based rabbi. Their first conversation lasted seven hours. “I saw him cry. Her tears were genuine, sincere. He knew nothing about Judaism«, said the Hebrew teacher. Since then the actions have not stopped. Visit to the Holocaust museum, talks in schools, collaboration with various associations… “I am very focused on this. I will continue to help until my last breath”assured the center in an interview for the Chicago Tribune.
Last April, he assured that he was almost 100% recovered, both physically and mentally, and that the time to return was drawing near. He also did not hesitate to affirm that several teams wanted him back. The reality, however, is that August started yesterday and there is no news or rumors of Leonard’s return to the NBA in the near future.
Udonis Haslem, a mentor among veterans, answered the question if Leonard used offensive language in his day to day with the Heat. “No, not at all, he has never said anything that could make me uncomfortable.”
“Words have consequences, and his were extremely painful. But Leonard is a great teammate and a great human being.” were the words that Spolestra dedicated to him after the incident on Twitch.
And now we can do two things.
The first is to think hard and simply believe that Leonard’s agent’s phone will ring sooner or later, as teams in need of versatility and inches in the paint verify that he is indeed ready to return to playing at his former level.
The second is to soak up suspicion and pay attention to the data that indicates that about half of the NBA franchise owners are Jewish, as well as the Commissioner and, even without taking it personally, let yourself be carried away by the ease that ‘punish’ implies. a slip that the whole world saw; something that neither money, nor the push of an All-NBA nor out-of-court settlements can cover up until they disintegrate in the drawer of oblivion.
The NBA has spent decades demonstrating that it is a vanguard entity in the social struggle and has shown its commitment to many causes. Just as not all causes compute the same, responding to his action profile more to that of a chess master than to a frontal cavalry charge. Forceful in some (Donald Sterling), timorous in others (Morey & China).
Without Meyers Leonard, the NBA does not lose any period player or affect any politically correct speech, so it is easier not to force the machine for the sake of giving a second chance to someone who, perhaps, a simple slap in the face would have sufficed. instead of turning his back on him and snatching the first one.
Whitewashing adapted to strange times. Where money does not buy principles but perhaps it does submit wills.
(Cover photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)