Miami Heat forward Meyers Leonard‘s season has come to an abrupt end. On February 2, The Athletic’s Shams Chaarnia revealed on Twitter that the 28-year-old would undergo season-ending surgery after suffering a shoulder injury last month.
Multiple other outlets, including Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang, confirmed Charania’s report. “Can confirm Meyers Leonard will undergo shoulder surgery,” Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman tweeted. “Based on timeline, his Heat career could be at an end.”
The Heat resigned Leonard in November with a contract that pays him an estimated $9 million this season. The two-year deal is worth a total of $20 million with the second year being a team option.
UPDATE: AP’s Tim Reynolds tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that “Leonard has had his surgery. It was successful.”
Meyers was initially acquired by the Heat from the Trail Blazers during the 2019 offseason in exchange for Hassan Whiteside.
The Heat Hold a $10.2 Million Option to Retain Leonard for Next Season
The last time Leonard was on the court was on January 9, during which he first suffered his shoulder injury, and he hasn’t been able to play since. Leonard only clocked in for three games this season.
Winderman tweeted on Tuesday, “The Heat are expected to apply for and receive an injured-player exception for Meyers Leonard’s injury, which would be half of his $9.4 million 2020-21 salary.”
The Heat hold a $10.2 million team option to retain Leonard for the 2021-2022 season, as reported by CBS Sports.
Leonard Struggled to Rehabilitate His Body Back Into Shape Last Season
In April, Leonard opened up about the frustrating journey of coming back from an injury. Two months after he sprained his ankle, “My best answer as to where I would be right now, would be, I don’t know, 90 percent?” Leonard said. “Because the truth is, I haven’t shot a jump shot. I haven’t tried to go up and dunk off one or two feet. I haven’t had to guard pick and roll.”
In order to build up strength, Leonard worked out from his home in Miami and with Heat’s director of rehabilitation Brandon Gilliam two to three times a week.
“I do have a pool, thankful for that — both for tanning and rehab purposes, I should say,” he said. “But in all seriousness, we’re able to use the pool. Obviously, the buoyancy of water allows for me to do some movements and such that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do on the ground.”
“In terms of basketball shape, I’m certainly not there,” he admitted. “And in terms of basketball-specific movement and taking the physical demand of, say, guarding a Joel Embiid, guarding a [Domantas] Sabonis, I don’t know if I could do that right now.”
“However, I do feel good. The swelling is coming down every day, as my body understands that load management and obviously the connection between literally the brain and my body and my ankle. And now it allows me to do everyday life things totally normal.”
Leonard Had Finally Earned His Spot Back in the Heat’s Starting Lineup Before Getting Injured
Leonard was able to rehab his ankle during the NBA’s league suspension due to COVID-19, but he was replaced with Jae Crowder, who’s since been traded to the Phoenix Suns, once the season restarted. After missing 16 games before the NBA shut down, Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t rush Leonard back into the lineup.
While Leonard started 49 games of the 2019 season before getting injured, Coach Spo is still shuffling the starting lineup around this season. Leonard sat out the team’s season opener, but he started the following two games before returning to the bench during the next matchup. Leonard, however, never took the move personally and admired Spoelstra’s “team-first” mindset.
“You just can see and sense it with Spo that everything changes on the fly and you gotta be ready,” Leonard said on Decemer 28. “We have our foundation and we have our habits. But then there are small tweaks every single night. He says, ‘No, we’re getting this one win.’ Then — boom — we’ll make adjustments and we’ll move to the next game.”