Meyers Leonard

Thunder Release Meyers Leonard

6:08pm: Thunder GM Sam Presti has announced that the team has officially released Leonard, via a team press release.

4:17pm: The Thunder have waived veteran center Meyers Leonard, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The move had been expected, as the Thunder only acquired Leonard in last week’s Trevor Ariza trade for salary-matching purposes. Oklahoma City kept him on the roster in case his $9.4MM salary proved useful in another deadline deal, but with the deadline now behind us, it didn’t take long for them to officially part ways with him.

Leonard is out for the season with a shoulder injury and was recently fined and suspended for using an anti-Semitic slur during a video game live stream. While his salary for this season is guaranteed, his $10.15MM salary for 2021/22 is a team option and has long been viewed as a lock to be declined. The Thunder won’t be on the hook for any of next season’s money.

The move will temporarily open up a spot on Oklahoma City’s roster, but it’ll be filled in the team’s two-for-one deal involving George Hill. With Hill and Leonard heading out, the Thunder are adding Tony Bradley and Austin Rivers.

Heat, Thunder Finalize Trevor Ariza Trade

5:22pm: The Heat have officially announced the deal (via Twitter). As had been expected, the Thunder announced in a press release that Leonard would remain away from the team.

“Leonard will not be reporting to Oklahoma City and will not be an active member of the organization,” the statement read in part.

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets that Ariza has been undergoing tests for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in anticipation of a potential deal, and hopes to suit up for Miami as soon as Friday, when the Heat host the Pacers.

1:57pm: As expected, Leonard has signed off on the trade, confirms Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).

1:32pm: The Heat and Thunder are finalizing a trade that will send forward Trevor Ariza to Miami in exchange for center Meyers Leonard and a 2027 second-round pick, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

As Wojnarowski notes, Leonard’s contract gives him the option of vetoing a trade, but he’s expected to sign off on the deal. Although the veteran big man likely won’t ever play for Oklahoma City, he’ll probably remain on the roster through the deadline in case he can be used in another deal, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman.

After starting the 2019/20 season in Sacramento, Ariza was dealt to Portland and played well for the Trail Blazers, averaging 11.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG on .491/.400/.872 shooting in 21 games (33.4 MPG). However, he opted out of the summer restart, then was traded multiple times in the 2020 offseason, ultimately landing in Oklahoma City. Ariza and the Thunder reached an agreement to have him remain away from the team.

Since he’s 35 years old and has essentially spent a full calendar year out of the NBA, it’s unclear how much Ariza has left in the tank, but the Heat will pay a very modest price to find out.

Leonard is out for the season with a shoulder injury and was recently fined and suspended for using an anti-Semitic slur during a video game live stream. While his $9.4MM salary for this season is guaranteed, his $10.15MM salary for 2021/22 is a team option and has long been viewed as a lock to be declined. He’s just being included in the deal to sufficiently match Ariza’s $12.8MM expiring contract.

The real asset going to the Thunder in the swap is the future second-round pick, which was one of the only picks Miami had left available to trade. Even though they won’t actually receive it for another six years, the Thunder will be happy to add that 2027 selection to their ever-growing stash of draft assets, especially for a player who didn’t play a single game for the club.

Even after trading for Ariza, the Heat will have a handful of assets to pursue other deals prior to next Thursday’s deadline, including Andre Iguodala‘s and Kelly Olynyk‘s expiring contracts, a $7.5MM trade exception, and a handful of promising young players. Because they’re trading Leonard, they’ll lose the $4.7MM disabled player exception they received after he suffered his season-ending injury, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks observes (via Twitter).

Miami remains about $5.4MM below the tax line and still has approximately $10.6MM of breathing room below the hard cap, Marks adds (via Twitter).

If the Thunder don’t use one of their existing traded player exceptions to take on Leonard’s salary, they’ll create a new $3.4MM TPE in the deal. They could very well be active again before the deadline, with veterans like George Hill, Al Horford, and Mike Muscala among their potential trade candidates.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Scotto’s Latest: Lowry, Aldridge, Oladipo, Wolves

The Heat are among the teams that have reached out to the Raptors about veteran guard Kyle Lowry, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Some of the players discussed in a possible deal include Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk and Kendrick Nunn, according to Scotto.

Lowry, who will turn 35 this month, continues to remain productive, averaging 18.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.5 rebounds through 31 games. He recently pledged his loyalty to the franchise, but didn’t offer a guarantee that he will re-sign with Toronto when he becomes a free agent this summer.

As a one-year Bird player, Dragic has veto power over any trade, Scotto notes. If Dragic agrees to a deal and a new team declines his $19.44MM option for next season, his Bird rights will be reduced to Non-Bird when he enters free agency. Olynyk is headed for unrestricted free agency, while Nunn will be a restricted free agent if he receives a $4.7MM qualifying offer.

Scotto offers a few more tidbits in advance of the March 25 trade deadline:

  • The Heat have also talked to the Spurs about veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who won’t play again until San Antonio can work out a deal. According to Scotto, Miami offered Avery Bradley, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard to match salary and would be willing to include a minimum contract such as Chris Silva or KZ Okpala or possibly draft picks. The Spurs will have many suitors for Aldridge, and several league executives expect the Celtics to get involved with their $28.5MM trade exception, Scotto adds. Boston is about $19.9MM below the hard cap and would have to send at least $4.1MM in contracts to San Antonio in return.
  • Rockets guard Victor Oladipo may be the top player available before the deadline, a few executives tell Scotto. The Knicks and Heat are among the teams that are reportedly interested. Scotto adds that Christian Wood is the only player the rebuilding Rockets might consider untouchable.
  • Several teams have inquired about Timberwolves veterans Ed DavisRicky RubioJuan Hernangomez and Jake Layman. Minnesota would like to acquire a young forward such as the Hawks‘ John Collins or the Magic’s Aaron Gordon, Scotto notes, and has future first-rounders to offer starting in 2023.

Meyers Leonard Receives Fine, Suspension For Comment

The NBA has fined Heat center Meyers Leonard $50K for making an anti-Semitic comment, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Leonard has also been suspended for a week from all Heat facilities and team activities. The $50K fine is the largest allowable under league rules.

Leonard, who uttered the slur during a video game livestream, will also be required to take part in a cultural diversity program (Twitter link).

“Meyers Leonard’s comment was inexcusable and hurtful, and such an offensive term has no place in the NBA or in our society,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Yesterday he spoke to representatives of the Anti-Defamation League to better understand the impact of his words and we accept that he is genuinely remorseful. We have further communicated to Meyers that derogatory comments like this will not be tolerated and that he will be expected to uphold the core values of our league — equality, tolerance, inclusion and respect — at all times moving forward.” (Twitter link)

Leonard’s offensive comment came while he was playing “Call of Duty: Warzone” on Twitch. He issued an apology, calling it “not a proper representation of who I am.” Leonard is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury and has a $10.1MM team option for next season.

Because Leonard is currently injured, he won’t forfeit salary for the games he misses during his week-long suspension, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Meyers Leonard To Be Away From Heat Indefinitely

After using an anti-Semitic slur during a Twitch live stream yesterday, injured Heat reserve center Meyers Leonard will be “away from the team indefinitely,” the team announced in a statement (via Twitter).

Leonard issued an apology today for his comment, as Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

“While I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong,” he said. “This is not a proper representation of who I am and I want to apologize to the Arisons, my teammates, coaches, front office, and everyone associated with the Miami Heat organization, to my family, to our loyal fans and to others in the Jewish community who I have hurt.”

After re-signing with the Heat for a guaranteed $9.4MM during the 2020 offseason, Leonard appeared in just three games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

The NBA and the Heat announced earlier today that they were reviewing the offending video clip in which Leonard uttered the slur as he played ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ on Twitch. The Heat have since indicated they’ll let the league take the lead on the probe.

“The words used by Meyers Leonard were wrong and we will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise,” the team said. “The Miami Heat will cooperate with the NBA while it conducts its investigation.”

The Heat’s contract with Leonard also includes a $10.1MM team option for the 2021/22 season. That option was always a long shot to be picked up — now, given the big man’s injury and this off-court incident, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which it’ll be exercised.

Heat Notes: Leonard, Trade Targets, Robinson

The Heat are reviewing a video clip that shows center Meyers Leonard using an anti-Semitic slur during a Twitch live stream on Monday night while playing ‘Call of Duty: Warzone,’ writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The NBA is also reviewing the incident, issuing a statement that reads, “We just became aware of the video and are in the process of gathering more information. The NBA unequivocally condemns all forms of hate speech.”

Leonard is out for the season with a shoulder injury and is a long shot to have his $10MM+ team option for 2021/22 exercised. If he was already in jeopardy of having played his last game for Miami, this video certainly didn’t help matters. So far, it’s unclear how the NBA and Heat will respond — a fine or a suspension seems like a possibility.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • A pair of veteran scouts who spoke to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald agreed that the Heat’s roster is in need of a stretch four and said Sacramento forward Harrison Barnes and San Antonio forward Rudy Gay would be among their targets if they worked for the team. The Spurs would be open to listening on Gay, according to Jackson. The two scouts also identified Rockets forward P.J. Tucker and Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica as logical targets — Miami has been linked to both.
  • With restricted free agency on tap this summer, Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson is putting in work to become a more complete player rather than just a three-point specialist. Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel takes a closer look at Robinson’s development.
  • After a slow start to the season, the Heat won seven of their last eight games entering the All-Star break. Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald explores what the club needs to do to carry that success over into the second half, starting with keeping Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo healthy.

Heat Granted Disabled Player Exception For Leonard

The Heat have been granted a disabled player exception as a result of Meyers Leonard‘s season-ending shoulder injury, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

A salary cap exception designed to give teams extra flexibility when a player suffers a major injury, the disabled player exception can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade. The exception can only be used on a single player and can only accommodate a player on a one-year deal. A free agent signee can’t get a multiyear contract, and any trade or waiver target must be in the final year of his contract.

Miami’s new DPE has a value of $4.7MM – half of Leonard’s $9.4MM salary for 2020/21 – so any player signed or acquired with the exception can’t be earning more than that amount (plus $100K). The deadline to use it is April 19.

[RELATED: 2020/21 NBA Disabled Player Exceptions]

The Heat used their full mid-level exception during the offseason to sign Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless, but still have their $3.6MM bi-annual exception, along with a $7.5MM trade exception that expires on March 22, so they have a few options available if they want to target a player in free agency or on the trade market.

Miami does, however, currently have 15 players on guaranteed contracts, and none of those exceptions – including the DPE – allow the team to add an extra player to its 15-man roster. So in order to use any of their exceptions, the Heat will have to trade or release one of their current players.

Heat Notes: Leonard, Nunn, Cap Exceptions, Herro

The Heat will be without Meyers Leonard for the rest of the season following the season-ending procedure he underwent on his shoulder on Tuesday. While the veteran big man hasn’t been a regular part of Miami’s rotation since last February, his teammates will miss his presence in the locker room, according to Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve had, as far as his leadership and his voice,” Tyler Herro said of Leonard. “When he steps into a room or a locker room, he’s always heard and he’s always preaching the right thing.”

“He was always encouraging guys,” Goran Dragic added. “He was the most vocal guy on our team. We’re definitely going to miss him.”

It’s possible Leonard has played his last game for the Heat, since the team is unlikely to pick up his $10.2MM team option for 2021/22.

Here’s more out of Miami:

  • After starting two games for the Heat last week, Kendrick Nunn has fallen out of the team’s rotation for the last two games. Still, even with Miami’s roster closer to full strength, that likely won’t be permanent. “He’s right there. We are finally at a point in the season where we have to make some tough decisions and that’s not an easy decision for the head coach,” Erik Spoelstra said, per Chiang and Jackson. “Guys just need to continue to stay ready and do whatever is necessary to help us get on track and play more consistently.” Nunn would meet the starter criteria and increase the value of his qualifying offer if he starts five more games this season.
  • The Heat have no shortage of salary cap exceptions available, according to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel, who expects the team will be approved for a $4.7MM disabled player exception following Leonard’s surgery. That DPE would supplement Miami’s $7.5MM trade exception and its $3.6MM bi-annual exception. If the club wants to use any of those exceptions, it would mean trading or releasing a player currently on the roster, since the 17-man squad is full.
  • Tyler Herro, who briefly entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols over the weekend before being cleared, explained on Tuesday that his girlfriend recorded a false positive COVID-19 test (Twitter link via Winderman). Once she recorded two negatives, Herro was cleared to rejoin the Heat without missing any games.

Heat’s Leonard Undergoes Shoulder Surgery, Out For Season

5:57pm: Leonard underwent surgery on Tuesday, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets.

4:33pm: Heat center Meyers Leonard will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Leonard has only appeared in three games this season, most recently on January 9. He strained his left shoulder in that game against the Wizards.

Injuries have dogged Leonard since he entered the league in 2012/13. He’s never played in more than 74 regular-season games. In his first season with the Heat last year, he started 49 of 51 regular-season contests and averaged 6.1 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 2o.3 MPG. He only saw action in three games during Miami’s postseason run to the Finals.

Leonard re-signed with the Heat on a two-year deal in November. He’s making $9.4MM this season but the team holds an option for 2021/22 worth $10.152MM. Leonard’s season-ending injury makes it even more unlikely the organization will exercise that option.

Miami has a full roster but could apply for a disabled player exception with Leonard sidelined for the season. It’d be worth $4.7MM if granted.

Eight Heat Players Unavailable Due To COVID-19 Protocols

3:58pm: In addition to Bradley, the Heat will be without the following players for Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Reynolds (Twitter link): Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Maurice Harkless, Udonis Haslem, and KZ Okpala.

That would leave the team with nine available players, assuming everyone else is healthy. Meyers Leonard (shoulder) is currently listed as questionable, while Kelly Olynyk (groin) and Gabe Vincent (knee) are probable, Reynolds notes (via Twitter).

2:14pm: The Heat are preparing to be without “at least five” players for the next several days due to possible exposure to the coronavirus, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Miami didn’t have the required minimum of eight players available on Sunday due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. As a result, the team’s scheduled game in Boston was postponed. Subsequently, the Heat spent Sunday and Monday awaiting the results of the NBA’s contact tracing investigation to find out which players may be required to self-isolate for the next week, says Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Heat are arranging for the players who need to self-isolate due to contact tracing to fly back to Miami on a private plane. The player who tested positive for COVID-19 will be sequestered in a hotel, while the rest of the team flies to Philadelphia in anticipation of playing vs. the Sixers.

Based on Winderman’s report, it sounds like the Heat expect to have enough players to resume their schedule on Tuesday vs. Philadelphia, though we don’t know yet who will and won’t be available. Avery Bradley‘s absence due to the league’s health and safety protocols was the only one reported on Sunday — all signs point to Bradley being the player who tested positive for the coronavirus, Winderman notes, but that hasn’t been confirmed.