Just a few minutes ago, the Clippers put out an update on superstar Kawhi Leonard, announcing that he will sit out tomorrow’s nationally televised game against the Bucks for load management. It’s been reported that he will likely play Thursday against the Blazers, so it seems that the Clippers are maintaining their still nascent policy of Kawhi sitting out one leg of back to backs.
In a vacuum, this makes a lot of sense. Kawhi was load managed last year by the Raptors to great success, and the Clippers absolutely need him healthy for the playoffs if they’re to win a championship. That playoff run is all that will ultimately determine the Clippers season and the legacy of this team, and one regular season game in November almost certainly won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
On the other hand, this is going to get some blowback for two reasons. First of all, this is not a random Monday night against the Hornets — it’s a nationally televised game against the Milwaukee Bucks, a potential Finals matchup. Kawhi against Giannis is always an incredible watch, and getting robbed of one of those games is disappointing for all NBA fans. Simply, it’s a bummer as a basketball watcher than Kawhi won’t be playing in this one, and that will be felt by the millions tuning into ESPN tomorrow.
Second, the situation and context is far different than last week’s three games in four nights setup when Kawhi sat out the middle game against the Jazz. This is a back to back, sure, but the Clippers will have had two days off before they play the Bucks tomorrow. More importantly, they will have three days off after Thursday’s game against the Blazers before they play again. With that amount of rest on either side, it seems like Kawhi could probably play in both games (maybe with a minutes limit in one) without taxing himself too much.
Then again, the Clippers and Kawhi know his body and what it needs far better than anyone else right now. If any kind of back to back action could increase the risk of injury, it’s best for Kawhi to sit out. Again, one game is not a make or break affair, and the Clippers will be just fine even with one more loss. It’s probably the smart move for Kawhi to sit.
This is only the Clippers’ second back to back, but reports have already started that Kawhi will probably sit out one of the Clippers’ back to backs next week as well, so it sure seems like the start of a season-long trend. Even if the Clippers lose a few more regular season games than they otherwise might, it will all be worth it if Kawhi is ready to go for the postseason.