Freeland wins back-up center job, Leonard odd man out

Terry Stotts told the media in Tualatin in anticipation of Thursday’s preseason finale that he’d hoped to use a more thought out rotation and one that he will use to start the regular season.

As far as the back-up center minutes are concerned, it is Joel Freeland and not Meyers Leonard who will be getting minutes behind Robin Lopez.

Mike Tokito of The Oregonian writes

But the bench minutes showed that second-year big man Joel Freeland had gained a spot in the rotation as the backup center, which Stotts confirmed after the game. Freeland played during prime time of both halves and totaled 15 minutes, 27 seconds. He finished with two points and two rebounds, but made several strong defensive plays contesting shots at the rim.

“The role that he has, he’s earned a lot of respect from his teammates and the coaches by how he’s impacted the game defensively,” Stotts said. “He had two rim protections tonight, made an impact on the game. We need defense out of that position, and Joel’s earned that.”

Meanwhile, Meyers Leonard — who many assumed would be the backup center — did not get into the game until late in the fourth quarter.

Nicolas Batum told The Oregonian that Joel Freeland was the “Training Camp MVP,” and LaMarcus Aldridge told media that he was impressed with Joel Freeland’s defense after their game in Boise.

Freeland played over 15 minutes in Portland’s preseason win against the Warriors.

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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