Kawhi Leonard expects to play in more back-to-backs going forward
Kawhi Leonard has been more or less saddled with being the poster boy for the “load management” movement that has taken over the NBA over the past few seasons.
Now that the Los Angeles Clippers star is feeling healthier than he has in a long time, Leonard expects to rely less upon load management and play in more back-to-back games this season.
“I mean, I think I’ll be playing, pretty much,” Leonard said when asked about playing in back-to-backs, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “The last few years, I was injured, and I worked on getting my leg stronger, and it’s been a long time. But I was patient, and I’m able to play.”
Leonard played in 35 minutes and scored 21 points in Wednesday’s 108-101 victory over the Golden State Warriors. It came after he logged 37 minutes and posted a 30-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist stat line in Tuesday’s 116-113 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
The back-to-back for Leonard Tuesday and Wednesday marked the first time the superstar accomplished the feat since April 4-5 in 2017 when he was still with the San Antonio Spurs.
Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue conceded after Wednesday’s game that Leonard was winded, but the star appeared to build up his endurance as the game progressed.
“Kawhi’s first back-to-back, I know he got gassed, especially the first time out,” Lue said. “Kawhi’s getting healthier. He said he felt great.”
The practice of load management– which has become an increasingly polarizing term in the NBA vernacular in recent seasons — is credited in helping players remain healthy and fresh over an 82-game grind. However, it’s no surprise that some old-school players bristled at the notion of taking a scheduled night off absent injury.
While the 2020-21 NBA season is only 72 games, ensuring that players don’t wear out has been further complicated by a historically short offseason with the late-December opening and the league’s bubble season having just concluded on Oct. 11.
It remains to be seen how well Leonard adjusts to playing in back-to-backs on a more consistent basis, but he presumably will be just fine so long as his health holds up.