Kawhi Leonard, infamously, introduced the term “load management” last season during his time with the Raptors. He never played in both games of back-to-backs, sitting at least one, as well as missing other random games when he was feeling tired or his leg was sore. This load management was done in an effort to keep him healthy and fresh for the bulk of the regular season and the playoffs after Kawhi had played only 9 games the previous season. The strategy, while laughed at initially, worked — Kawhi won Finals MVP for the Championship-winning Raptors, and played in all 24 postseason games, even though he was dealing with soreness in his knee. Despite only playing in 60 regular season games, Kawhi avoided any serious injuries, and came through when it mattered most.
Many people assumed that this load management would persist through the rest of Kawhi’s prime. However, at the press conference today, Kawhi said a few things that went against that notion. He stated that last year was his first coming off injury, which was the reason for all the precaution. Kawhi then dropped the (kind of) bombshell: load management will be made on a “game by game basis” next year, and he intends to play “the full season”.
Now, optimistically, playing the full season would mean all 82 games. I don’t think that will happen. In fact, I’d be shocked if it did. Instead, I would guess that there will be no planned rest days for Kawhi. Instead, if he’s feeling off before a game, he might let the Clippers know, and he’ll sit it out, or get a lower-than-usual minutes load. That way, he can make sure that his body is feeling right, and that he’ll be ready for when games matter the most. Also, even if Kawhi doesn’t ask out of games, the Clippers might want him to rest for some back-to-backs, or for three-in-four stretches — they want him healthy and rested just as much as Kawhi does.
That doesn’t mean that this isn’t good news. Kawhi is healthy, he’s ready for the season to start, and it looks like, if everything goes as planned, he will probably play more than the 60 regular season games he suited up for last season. If I had to put a number range on it, 67-70 sounds about right. Together with Paul George and the Clippers’ potent bench, that should be more than enough to have the Clippers in a good position entering the postseason. And then, when the playoffs begin, the Klaw can begin his takeover.