The debate on “load management” continues to rage on among fans and pundits alike, and it, unfortunately, comes at a cost for one Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers. Following comments from head coach Doc Rivers that were “inconsistent” to Leonard’s health status from the team, the NBA fined the Clippers $50,000.
The 2019 NBA Finals MVP sat out Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the first of a back-to-back and the second time during a nationally televised date. At the time, the NBA felt that the Clippers were compliant with the updated league rules of resting Kawhi with a nagging knee injury. However, Rivers flubbed up during a pre-game scrum describing Leonard’s situation. The coach told the media that Kawhi “feels great” and that no one should be concerned, leading the league to drop a small hammer on them.
“Following additional review of the LA Clippers not playing Kawhi Leonard in last night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA has confirmed that the team’s decision to sit Leonard for management of an injury was consistent with league rules,” the league said in Thursday’s statement. “The team has reasonably determined that Leonard is suffering from an ongoing injury to the patella tendon in his left knee and has been placed by the team at this time on an injury protocol for back-to-back games.”
Leonard was known to take games off last season playing for the Toronto Raptors following a quad injury. That method led to Kawhi delivering a historic Playoff performance and gifting Toronto their first NBA title in the franchise’s history. This season sees not just him, but teammate Paul George undergoing the same practice once he returns from shoulder surgery. Critics of the process see this robbing fans of the chance of seeing the superstars play in marquee matchups, while others have no issue of teams trying to preserve the health of their star players in a long season.
Even the peers of the NBA have their own thoughts on load management, for or against. New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale called the tactic “crap” after he was suggested that rookie star RJ Barrett shouldn’t play 41 minutes in a blowout loss. 2018-19 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Clippers 129-124 on Wednesday, said that resting is difficult to cope with.
“It’s tough. It was tough, but that’s not happening this year,” Antetokounmpo told Yahoo Sports on the prospect of resting. “I was used to play for [former Bucks coach] Jason Kidd. He was breaking us down, but I was happy about it. I think I was the only one that was embracing that. I came from nothing and worked hard every day. That’s what I was used to.”