The Clippers are hearing complaints after deciding to rest Kawhi Leonard in a pair of nationally televised games, but the NBA has ruled that the load management plan falls within league guidelines, writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Leonard will sit out tonight’s home game against the Bucks, depriving viewers of a match-up between reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the MVP of last season’s NBA Finals. L.A. isn’t currently planning to use Leonard in back-to-back situations any time during the season, sources tell Wojnarowski, and the Clippers host Portland tomorrow night.
“Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league’s resting policy, and, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the LA Clippers injury report,” league spokesman Mike Bass said. “The league office, in consultation with the NBA’s director of sports medicine, is comfortable with team medical staff’s determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time.”
The Raptors employed the same strategy last year, using Leonard in just 60 regular season games. That preserved him for the playoffs, where he averaged 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in 24 games and led Toronto to its first NBA title.
Wojnarowski notes that Leonard hasn’t played on back-to-back nights since April of 2017 when he was still with the Spurs. A quad injury the following season limited him to nine games for the season and led to a falling out with the organization.
“He feels great because of what we’ve been doing,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). “There’s no concern here. Our job is to make sure he stays that way.”