Kawhi Leonard would not be ‘playing right now’ without load management
The concept of “load management” has taken a firm foothold in the NBA in recent seasons, and Kawhi Leonard indicates the philosophy is the main reason why he’s currently playing in the NBA Finals.
“I don’t think I’d be playing right now if I would’ve tried to go through the season,” Leonard told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols ahead of Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night.
Kawh Leonard: I wouldn't be playing right now if it weren't for load management.— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 7, 2019
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“Load management” is simply a complicated way to explain how teams rest star players under the auspices of injury avoidance and the like.
The San Antonio Spurs were the first team to embrace the practice of resting star players — much to the NBA’s chagrin — though Gregg Popovich never would have employed such a term as “load management.”
Leonard entered his first season in Toronto coming off a 2017-18 campaign with the Spurs where he controversially played in only nine games while dealing with a nagging quadriceps tendinopathy condition.
The Raptors exercised some semblance of caution by declining to play Leonard in back-to-back games at the onset of the season. The Sporting News’ Sean Deveney noted last month that 14 of the 22 games Leonard missed this season were characterized as cases of “load management.”
Leonard is not the only player who has relied upon the “load management” mantra in an effort to keep themselves healthy, nor will he be the last. The NBA obviously would prefer it if superstars did not take games off, but it seems like that ship has sailed and the league has no choice but to accept it.