Kawhi Leonard and “load management” have become inextricably linked. Leonard went to Toronto last season after only playing just nine games for the Spurs the previous season with a quad injury that, shall we say, was taking a little longer to heal than San Antonio thought it should. The Raptors didn’t take any chances with overexerting Kawhi, who played just 60 regular-season games and not a single back-to-back. It worked. In the postseason, Kawhi didn’t miss a single game, played over 39 minutes a night, scored 30.5 points a game, and the Raptors won a championship.
Given the success Toronto had with this strategy, you would think the Clippers would follow a similar blueprint this coming season. But according to Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers do not intend to rest Kawhi as aggressively as the Raptors did.
There are likely a few layers to this. First off, Kawhi is obviously healthy, which is great news. If there was even an inkling of doubt that he was still somewhat fragile, the Clippers wouldn’t be taking chances. Second, Kawhi will likely still rest. Maybe not every back-to-back, but definitely here and there. Third, the Clippers might not be able to afford to rest Kawhi as much with Paul George expected to miss potentially significant time to start the season after shoulder surgery. Fall too far back in the Western Conference, and you’re in trouble.
Beyond that, this is great news for the fans. While “load managing” stars makes sense for the teams and players who are thinking big picture, it stinks to high heaven for the parent who paid a couple hundred bucks to take their kid to the only game they’re going to get to all year, only to find that a perfectly healthy superstar is in street clothes. Sounds like that won’t happen quite as often with Kawhi this season.