Over the last few weeks, discussions around the NBA have remained on the topic of load management. It was sparked further by the L.A. Clippers’ decision to rest star forward Kawhi Leonard on one leg of back-to-back game sets. That conversation has shifted around the league with other superstars talking about the matter as LeBron James recently stated that he would play in every game as long as he’s healthy, which saw Clippers head coach Doc Rivers respond to those comments.
It didn’t take long for others such as Hall of Famer Gary Payton to blast Rivers for his stance.
LeBron James’ comments, Doc Rivers responds
Throughout the season, James has been a strong proponent of being on the court as much as he can be in the 2019-20 campaign.
The star forward reiterated that point earlier this week following the win over the Atlanta Hawks as he voiced that he will be playing games as long as he’s healthy enough to do so. (H/T Mark Medina of USA TODAY Sports)
“Why wouldn’t I play if I’m healthy? It doesn’t make any sense to me,” James told reporters following the Lakers’ win in Atlanta on Sunday. “My obligation is to play for my teammates. If I’m healthy, then I’m going to play. If coach sits me out, then I’m not healthy. It’s just that simple.”
That was quickly interpreted as being a shot at the Clippers’ handling of Leonard‘s playing time and availability this season even James didn’t mention anyone by name. It didn’t take long for that to make its way back around to Rivers as he fired back by stating that the Lakers do “whatever LeBron say it is.”
Rivers wasn’t too fond of the comments as he took a direct shot at James and the Lakers’ game plan with managing their players’ health. There is now another layer to all of this fuss around the situation.
Gary Payton shuts down Doc Rivers
Rivers’ comments have come as not as a subtle jab at James’ dealings with the Lakers, but also a protective retort for Leonard’s situation.
However, Hall of Famer Gary Payton sees a lot of hypocrisy with the Clippers head coach’s point of view as he sees their franchise in a very similar bind with the reigning NBA Finals MVP.
“Doc, You ain’t talking the truth…That’s why Kawhi came to you anyways because he told you ‘if you won’t load manage me the way I want to be load managed. I’m not coming here.’ And you said ok. You know that’s the truth.”
Payton’s vantage point of the entire matter has much credence, as Leonard does hold much control over how things unfolded with his decision to join the Clippers. It’s a player-driven league, in which superstars often have a strong say in how things unfold. The Lakers are in the same boat with James as the Clippers are to their own star forward.
It’s as simple as pointing out the similarities in both situations that Rivers appears to be blatantly ignoring being the case.
Lakers, Clippers in promising positions
In the months heading into the 2019-20 season, the discussion around the league was that both Los Angeles teams could be in contention for the NBA title.
That has seemingly unfolded in that manner through the first quarter of the campaign, with them both holding the top-two best records in the Western Conference. They have each proven to have strong rosters that could see them move forward towards a possible Western Conference showdown next May.
Before it potentially hits that point, the teams will face off in the regular season with their next matchup on Christmas Day. The Clippers took the season-opening game, which should amp up the level of intensity for the contest this around next week.