How Kawhi Leonard made load management an NBA debate

first_img Clippers hope they can play to their capabilities, quell Mavericks’ momentum What the Clippers are saying the day after Luka Doncic’s game-winner tied series, 2-2 Of course, it’s easier to lighten a player’s workload at practice than in games.The league can fine a team $100,000 for resting a healthy player in a high-profile game and, moreover, the NBA is a highly competitive workplace where any disadvantage hurts, even if that pain might be outweighed by a long-term benefit.“We really haven’t been a position to necessarily take games off,” Stotts said. “If a guy is injured or needs to take a game off, then we do, but we don’t go look at the schedule and plan days off.”It turns out the Clippers are, in fact, resting Leonard in an effort not to exacerbate an “ongoing injury to the patella tendon in his left knee,” the NBA reported in a news release Thursday, when it also announced that it was fining the Clippers $50,000 for statements it deemed inconsistent with Leonard’s health status.Leonard said he was “shocked” by the league’s revelation about his health, but he confirmed that doctors discouraged him from playing back-to-back games.His teammates say they understand and appreciate that.“He’s a pro, he has to take care of himself,” said Montrezl Harrell, the Clippers’ seemingly indestructible center who played all 82 regular-season games last season. “No matter if he’s in the rotation or not, we have to be the same basketball team.”Related Articles Part of the debate over load management seems to be a debate over what load management actually is.Lately, it’s come to be recognized as a classification for missing a game – e.g. “Kawhi Leonard is out because of load management” – but the concept of monitoring a player’s workload isn’t new and doesn’t, on its own, necessitate a DNP.Part of Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ load management strategy this season includes pacing some of the team’s veterans in practice, including limiting Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley prior to this week’s set of back-to-back games.But that’s hardly cutting-edge thinking: “Coaches have been resting guys in practice for – when did I retire? – coaches have been resting guys at practice for 21 years,” Rivers said before Wednesday’s loss, minus a load-managing Leonard, to the Milwaukee Bucks. “It’s not just the Clippers,” said Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who’s responsible for maintaining the health of reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed 10 games last year on account of an ankle sprain or ailing calf.“A lot of teams are considering and doing things to make sure their whole roster is healthy,” Budenholzer said. “We try being efficient in practice, we try and be conscientious of how much contact we have or don’t have. Probably more days we have what we call ‘body days,’ where they’re really just days devoted to taking care of their health, whether it be lifting or massages or cold tubs or hot tubs and putting the ball down for a day.”The Portland Trail Blazers take a similar approach at practices, Coach Terry Stotts said.“I don’t know where load management always means taking games off,” Stotts said before Thursday’s 107-101 loss to the Clippers. “We monitor our players and are very aware of where they are physically and take that into account with our scheduling.“We have a health and performance staff. We got all the analytics and studies and we’re very aware of – if you want to call it load – we’re very aware of each player’s load and we manage that. So I guess that’s load managing.” That said, when Harrell was asked whether he’d be receptive to a load management schedule to avoid wear and tear, he bristled: “I’m not one of those players, man. You’re asking the wrong man.”Harrell’s running mate, Lou Williams, said he won’t raise his hand to ask for a game off, either.“That’s up to the coaches. My job as a player is to step out on the floor and compete if I’m healthy enough to play,” said the 33-year-old Williams, who is averaging a team-high 31.4 minutes per game this season with Paul George (shoulders) set to return to full practice for the first time Saturday and Leonard having missed two games.“Other than that,” Williams said, “they’ll make decisions on who steps out and who doesn’t play as far as the load management stuff goes.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Kristaps Porzingis ruled out as Clippers, Mavericks set for Game 5; Follow for game updates Clippers vs. Mavericks Game 5 playoff updates from NBA beat reporters For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory last_img

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