Meyers Leonard Prepares To Return: ‘When I did it I thought I might’ve broken my ankle’
Meyers Leonard is back at practice! Today the rookie center participated in a full practice for the first time since he sprained his right ankle on December, 29th against Philadelphia. His status for tomorrow night’s matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks is still up in the air, but his return the court looks to be in the near future.
“He looked good for the first practice back,” Head Coach Terry Stotts said. “He’s not full strength, I don’t know if he’ll be active tomorrow or not, but it was his first contact practice and it was good.”
Check out this video of Leonard after practice and keep reading for a transcript of the extended interview.
How was practice?
“It was pretty good for me, I was subbing in and out of every single drill, I didn’t have to take any drills off. My strength and explosion isn’t completely there yet and we’re still making progress, but I was happy with the way today went.”
How does it [ankle] feel?
“It feels pretty good. I’ve made a lot of progress, we’ve worked very hard on it to try to get back. I play with so much athleticism and explosion and things like that, so it’s a little bit tougher for a guy like me to get back on my feet and get back to the way I was playing, so I’m happy with where I’m at.”
Are you thinking about your ankle when you’re out there playing?
“Not too much. Every now and then I can feel it, if I make a cut or if I turn around and try to do something, so for a rebound, really take off, you can tell it’s not all there, but once again, I’m happy with where I’m at.”
Do you think tomorrow [Saturday against the Bucks] is a possibility?
[Imitates flipping a coin] “I would say fifty-fifty. We’ll have to reassess in the morning and see how I feel when I get out of bed after a first practice. Hopefully I have a shot, maybe I can get a few minutes, but then again, I can’t be positive.”
Is it your call at this point, based on how you feel?
“I would say it’s our head trainer and myself as well. He can’t obviously tell what I’m going through at all times, but he has different things he can put me through to test my agility and my explosiveness, so we’ll see what happens.”
When do you think you turned a corner with how you’re feeling?
“Yesterday. I came in on our off day, well their off day, and got some shots up, did a little more than what I had been doing as far as going off my right leg, doing some different explosions for rebounds and some things like that, so I would say yesterday.”
What has it been like watching games and not playing?
“It’s tough, I’m used to competing, it’s what I live for. We had a really good stretch there where we won four in a row, now we’ve dropped four in a row, but they played extremely hard. The average that we lost by, we did the math, and it was 4 points or less for all the games, so it was some tough losses but we also came out with some big wins, but we gotta get back on track and get some W’s.”
Can you describe what you’ve been doing to rehab your ankle?
“Some rest, a lot of icing, a lot of elevation to keep blood circulating, stretching, strengthening of the achilles and the calf muscle because it’s kinda like it [ankle] wakes back up and you’re like ‘oh man,’ you gotta start working it again and everything like that.”
Was the injury worse or better than you initially thought?
“When I did it I thought I might’ve broken my ankle, but then luckily enough I didn’t have any fractures, but I woke up and it was like I had a softball on my ankle. So it was pretty painful, but I’ve really made some strides, so I’m happy.”
With all your energy, how has it been being off you feet?
“It’s tough every now and then, but in a way it’s kinda nice, instead of waiting for the All-Star break, not that I wanted to get injured, but I kinda got a chance to to step back and look at what I’ve done so far, realize what I can and need to do to finish out strong for my rookie season for us and it was good because I could kinda learn the game mentally rather than physically.”
What are some of the things you learned about your game during that time?
“Continue to play hard and I think it was in the last five, six, seven, eight games I started to rebound the ball better, better positioning, guarding ball-screens better and just different things. And then trying to be aggressive on offense, a lot of times I’m passive and very unselfish, but at times they want me to score the ball.”
Are you itching to get back out there?
“I am. Like I said, I’m a competitor and it’s what I love to do, so yeah, I’m ready.”