Meyers Leonard plans to re-sign with the Trail Blazers as a restricted free agent this summer, observes Jason Quick of Comcast Sports Northwest. Soon-to-be free agents more often than not say they intend to return to their incumbent teams, but Leonard also plans to rehabilitate his season-ending dislocated left shoulder with the Blazers medical staff, as Quick also points out. The injury is expected to keep him out six to eight months, which threatens his availability for the start of next season. The 2016/17 regular season begins in seven months. “It just hurts because I feel like I could help this team win,’’ Leonard said. “I feel like I can be a big piece of what we can do.” Quick examines the close bond Leonard feels with Damian Lillard, a fellow 2012 lottery pick who signed a five-year extension last summer, when Leonard bet on himself and turned down what Quick heard was a considerable extension offer. The scribe guesses that the big man will command a new contract in the neighborhood of $44MM over four years (Twitter link). See more from the Northwest Division:
- University of Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, a former teammate of Kevin Durant and a rumored candidate for the Thunder coaching vacancy that Billy Donovan filled last year, believes it’ll take a major effort for any team to pry Durant away from Oklahoma City in free agency this year, as Ollie tells Raul Barrigon of HoopsHype. Ollie describes Durant and Russell Westbrook as two of his best friends. “I know he’s going to make a decision with his heart,” Ollie said of Durant. “I know he’s gonna do that, choose the best situation for his family, the best position to win a championship. And OKC has a great team, I know he loves Russell Westbrook, I know he loves playing in front of the Thunder fans, so it’s going to take a team to do a great recruiting job to get him away from OKC.”
- Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post thinks the Nuggets aren’t quite as opposed to the idea of trading Danilo Gallinari as they are with Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic, but the team still envisions Gallinari as a driving force on a team with a legitimate shot at the playoffs next season, as Dempsey writes in a mailbag column.
- The Thunder has assigned Josh Huestis to the D-League, the team announced. It’s the 14th time the team has sent the No. 29 pick from 2014 to the D-League this season.