Throughout much of the 2019-20 season, a sticking point conversation has been LA Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard‘s health. The hope was that he could play a more significant workload, but he has been relegated to having to sit out one leg of a back-to-back set due to chronic knee issues. The load management that the Clippers have elected to go forth with Leonard has received much criticism due to it keeping him out of the lineup on several occasions this season. However, Portland Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard recently voiced his support for the Clippers forward sitting out games.
Kawhi Leonard’s load management
In the months heading into this season, the notion around the Clippers was that Leonard would be able to play in more games as his lone season with the Toronto Raptors was more of a necessary need to miss games to keep him healthy.
However, things have shifted to the point where Leonard is now missing at least one game of a back-to-back set. That has drawn some criticism from the media due to it forcing to miss some primetime games, which was most prevalent after he sat out the home game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The feeling there was that fans would miss out on the entertaining matchup between Leonard and reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Despite all the public criticism, the Clippers have stuck firmly behind their star player to go about their load management plan with a bigger goal in mind of competing for an NBA title.
It’s a decision that has now seen support from another Western Conference All-Star.
Damian Lillard shows his support for Kawhi Leonard
Many have criticized the Clippers and Leonard for their continued load management, but the team has stayed the course of keeping the long-term plan in mind.
With that discussion still prominent, Lillard has hopped into the conversation by defending the Clippers star forward by stating that he believes that he is only going that route due to a lingering injury that needs him to manage it by taking games off from time to time, according to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report.
“When you love to play, you play,” the Blazers star said. “People give Kawhi a lot of s— for playing every other game, but I feel like he is dealing with something, where he’s playing when he feels healthy enough to play. So it depends. He might have an injury that he shouldn’t be playing with and he’s playing through something. He’s managing it to the best of his ability.”
Lillard has a clear understanding of the intentions that Leonard has with his load management plan. It’s the long-term that he is keeping his approach fully on, and that gets lost in the shuffle of missing a regular-season game. More importantly, it’s something that he’s doing to keep himself healthy for the long haul well after his NBA career.
Kawhi Leonard, Clippers will stay the course
Although some are strictly against the use of load management, in Leonard’s case, it appears to be a necessary action.
The 28-year-old is dealing with a knee injury that will continue to bother him that needs him to operate in this manner to keep him relatively healthy. The decision to go this route has hurt the Clippers at points this season, but the bigger picture of contending for an NBA title is the focus.
Ultimately, it’s a plan of action that Leonard used last year with the Raptors, and it allowed him to excel in the playoffs, and he will have the chance to prove that once again this time around.