Former Orono High School basketball standout Jon Leuer has experienced plenty in his brief two years in the NBA.
Leuer was selected 40th overall in the NBA Draft by the Bucks after a standout college career at Wisconsin. However, his debut in the NBA was delayed while owners and players hammered out a labor deal prior that delayed the 2011-12 season.
Leuer played with Germany’s Frankfurt Skyliners before using an option in his contract that would allow him to join the Bucks when the NBA lockout ended. He had a solid rookie campaign, but was traded to Houston. The Rockets were loaded with other young players, so they waived him before he even played a game with his new team.
Cleveland signed Leuer in the offseason and he is averaging 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds per game this year.
Lake Minnetonka Patch caught up with Leuer to learn more about his new team and life in the NBA.
Lake Minnetonka Patch: How is Cleveland?
Jon Leuer: It’s good. It is going well. I like the city. It is pretty comparable to what I am used to in the Midwest. Not too different from Milwaukee or Minneapolis.
Patch: Have you gotten a chance to see or do much yet in the town?
Leuer: A little bit. Obviously, I have been pretty busy with basketball. I have been able to walk around to most restaurants and see a little bit of what Cleveland has to offer.
Patch: When you go out to eat do many people recognize you?
Leuer: Sometimes. The fans here are pretty into their sports teams, so occasionally you are recognized.
Patch: When you are 6-foot-10, it is probably hard to go unnoticed, right?
Leuer: Right. I don’t really blend in.
Patch: How different is the NBA than what you thought it would be growing up or even in college?
Leuer: It isn’t too different. I haven’t really been surprised my first two years. I felt that I was able to adjust to the game pretty well.
Patch: What was the experience like playing in Milwaukee last year after playing college basketball at Wisconsin? A lot of people knew you statewide, obviously. Did that make the adjustment into the NBA a little bit easier being only a couple of hours from Madison?
Leuer: Yes. It was great to have Badger fans who were Buck fans who supported me. They were able to support me for four years and they were able to come to some of my games and see me play. When I was playing, I would hear them sometimes say “Go Badgers,” so that was cool. Definitely. Now, I am here for a new opportunity in Cleveland and looking to make the most of it.
Patch: I know that they really liked you in Milwaukee and the general manager was quoted as saying that they didn’t want to trade you, but had to include you in deal to make it work salary cap-wise. What was the reaction when you heard that you were traded to Houston?
Leuer: It was a surprise, but that is just the nature of the business. As a player in the league, you need to roll with the punches. The only thing you can do is to control what you can control and get in the gym and get better every day. I feel that I am just trying to continue to get better as a player and help this team.
Patch: How tough was it to go to Houston, a team that had three first round draft picks? They ended up drafting some young players at the forward position (Terrence Jones of Kentucky and Hopkins native Royce White from Iowa State) and you never got a chance to play there. You also didn’t get a chance to play in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Leuer: I don’t think that was too big of a deal (missing the summer league). It was just a minor bump in the road, I guess. Going to Houston, I knew that it was just a crazy free agency period. I was definitely expecting the unexpected and eventually landed in Cleveland. Like I said, just trying to control what I can control and that is how hard I work and what I do every day in the gym.
Patch: You have received more playing time recently. Were you injured at the start of the season?
Leuer: No. The coach was just trying different lineups. Obviously, we have a lot of good players and there is a lot of competition for minutes. I am just trying to help this team out anyway possible and be ready whenever my name is called.
Patch: You have picked up your play recently and have gotten some more minutes with rookie center Tyler Zeller out and Samardo Samuels has been up and down. Do you feel like you are finding your niche a little bit more now?
Leuer: Yes. Like I said, I am just trying to be ready whenever I am out there and make the most of my opportunities and really just help this team. I have always been a team player and do whatever I can, whatever my role is to help the team is what I am going to do.
Patch: I know that your mom and dad were able to make a lot of your games last year since your mother works for Delta. How much does that help you that they are able to make some of your games?
Leuer: Yes, it’s great. To have familiar faces around, especially when it is your mom and dad and your family and they are willing to travel and see some games. They have come out, I think they have each been out once so far. They came for two games during a recent road trip and I have been able to see them a little bit as well.
Patch: What is life like on an 11-day road trip? You are traveling a lot and staying at hotels, but what is that experience really like?
Leuer: You said it. Traveling, hotels and arenas. That is pretty much what you see. Sometimes you get to walk around and go out to eat with your teammates or go shopping or to a movie or something. Other than that, it is mostly all business and you go from city to city in a short period of time, so you have to stay focused on what you are trying to do.
Patch: I am sure that people think that being a professional basketball player is glamorous. What do you tell people when they ask you about the lifestyle of a NBA player?
Leuer: It is a lot of work. You have to put a lot of time into it because it is important to you and it is important to all your teammates and coaches. You want to be successful so that passion and drive that you have for success is more important. You want to succeed and that is more important than the glamorous lifestyle.
Patch: You are doing so much travel. Are there certain things you try to do with all that spare time because you have a lot of time to yourself when you are on the road?
Leuer: Sometimes when you get some free time, I’ll read or watch TV or get some extra sleep here or there because you get in late some nights from traveling the night before.
Patch: When do you play at the Target Center?
Leuer: I think that we go there in January (actually February 11th).
Patch: Have you already talked to some relatives and friends about wanting to see you play?
Leuer: Yes. I have talked to some people and I know that my mom e-mailed most of them. We’ll see when that gets here, but it is a long way off. But, it is always fun to go back home.
Patch: Last year, you played in a preseason game at the Target Center and had a really game and scored 18 points. Was that kind of fun, knowing that you had a lot of friends and family there and having such a good performance in front of them?
Leuer: Yes, it was. I just remember walking around after the game in the tunnel and seeing 50 or 60 people there for me. That was something that I will remember for a long time. To have that many people supporting me and being able to play well made that a special night