As the Miami Heat prepare to head to Orlando to participate in the NBA’s restart at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World, Heat big man Meyers Leonard is confident that his team is ready for the challenge that the environment will provide.
While he knows the mental grind will be difficult, Leonard is buoyed by the fact that being sequestered in the league’s bubble for potentially over three months isn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things.
“I’ve actually had a couple back-and-forths with [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra], via texting, good back-and-forths, because he had asked me ‘How are you feeling about this?'” Leonard said during a Monday conference call with reporters. “And I said ‘Look, man, let me explain something. Number one, I’m getting paid millions of dollars to play basketball. Let’s start there. Something I love to do anyway. Number two, my brother did two nine month tours in Afghanistan. For a lot less pay. We’re going to be [in the bubble] for three or four months max.”
Leonard, an avid admirer of Navy Seals, tried to put into more context how he was putting the whole experience into perspective.
“I get it, life’s not always easy, but what do we really have to complain about, right?” Leonard said. “I think about those guys [Navy Seals], they’re taking out the worst people in the world for way less money and putting their life on the line every single day. So it’s not going to be easy [in the bubble] I know that, but I do work with a sports psych. We’ve been having discussions for months about what this is going to be like, how I’m going to dial in every morning … but ultimately also I want to frickin’ win.”
Leonard, like several Heat players have stated throughout the past weeks, believes that his team comes into the restart with a mental advantage over other teams because of the basketball-centric mentality that the Heat have installed within their program over the years. Leonard also noted how important the restart for both the short and long term future of the league as a whole
“So whatever I got to do for the team,” Leonard said. “Whether that’s making sure I’m going out for lunch with a couple of the young guys, and then with a couple of the vets for dinner. Whatever it may be, we all have to understand there’s a sacrifice in place number one for our team, but also for the future of the NBA. Make no mistake.
“This is a very strange time. The salary cap is going to take a frickin’ hit. And let me tell you, if we didn’t commit to playing, it would have taken a bigger hit. I always say ‘Listen, I’m just a normal guy who happens to play in the NBA.’ Do I love what comes with it, ‘Yeah, sure.’ Trust me, it comes with a lot of frickin’ stress too, but we just have to be willing to get through it. Period.”
Leonard was confident that the NBA would do all it could to keep players and team staffers safe in Orlando.
“I would be shocked if there were numerous cases popping up in Orlando,” he said. “Because of how strict the guidelines [in the bubble] seem to be. But, this is a very unknown world of sorts that we’re about to go into. The NBA’s never been through this, so I’m not concerned and I’m ready to rock and roll. I know that.”
Leonard also noted that while there has been a lot of chatter regarding the incessant nature of coronavirus testing for players and staffers, the same mentality of pushing through adversity applies.
“The same as the COVID test by the way,” Leonard said. “[Some people may say] ‘Do you want a tissue?’ No, just give me the stupid thing and let’s get it over with. It’s not that bad. Come on people! What the hell? Seriously. Could we all just maybe toughen up just a touch?”