07 November 2019 06:33
NBA deems Clippers compliant in decision to rest Kawhi Leonard LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard isn't healthy three weeks into the season, according to the NBA, which says that as a result the Los Angeles Clippers can rest their new superstar. He was on the bench against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks for a national TV game Wednesday night, the first half of a back-to-back for the Clippers. They host Portland on Thursday night, and coach Doc Rivers said Leonard would play. "Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league's resting policy," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Wednesday. The league office, in consultation with the NBA's director of sports medicine is comfortable with the team medical staff's determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time." While not disputing the league's comments, Rivers also said Leonard "feels great." Rivers said it doesn't mean that Leonard won't play in back-to-backs — the team has 11 remaining this season — but "early on we're going to keep to the same plan that we've kept to so far." Rivers cited "a lot of minutes" that Leonard racked up last season while leading Toronto to its first NBA championship.
"I think Kawhi made a statement that he's never felt better," Rivers said. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Milwaukee manages reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in a similar way to Leonard. "We're very conscientious of how we can keep him healthy and how we can keep him playing well, being proactive, being aggressive," he said. LOS ANGELES — Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he hadn't paid attention to criticism Wednesday in reaction to the news that Kawhi Leonard would miss Wednesday's showdown with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwuakee Bucks – but he understands: Fans want to see stars play. "Listen, I am a fan of basketball as well, not just a coach, and so I feel for that, I understand that," Rivers said before his team took the Staples Center court without Leonard, who had been ruled out – load management (knee) – and would be skipping the first game of a back-to-back for the second time this season, both times missing games broadcast nationally by ESPN.
Under a conservative regimen last season with the Toronto Raptors, Leonard played 60 of 82 regular-season games. But he averaged 39.1 minutes in 24 playoff games and led Toronto to its first NBA title – defeating Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals along the way. After this season began, Rivers and Leonard suggested that because the superstar wing is healthier than he was a season ago, he would miss fewer games due to load management. "He played a lot of minutes in the playoffs last year, so it's not a health thing, really, (but) it is in some ways – we want him to just keep feeling better … it's an 82-game schedule and guys are gonna miss games due to injuries, you know? Theoretically, Rivers said, there would be fewer load management scenarios if games were not scheduled on consecutive days. "It's tough because sometimes you know guys get nicked and they shouldn't play," Rivers said. I'm not smart enough to have a solution to it. I'm just not. "We haven't had one minute of practice yet with that full team on the floor, not one minute," Rivers continued. Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said he empathized with what the Clippers are dealing with. He and his staff face a similar challenge in keeping Antetokounmpo – the reigning league MVP – healthy and at his best. Kawhi Leonard won't play when Clippers face the Bucks on Wednesday Michael Jordan-Kawhi Leonard comparisons prove hard to avoid "Organizations and teams have to figure out a way to manage a season, manage great players, manage minutes and bodies," said Budenholzer, last season's NBA Coach of the Year. The Clippers could be at full strength – with the services of All-Star wing Paul George for the first time – soon, Rivers said. "He's very eager," said Rivers, who said George, who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgeries, could possibly participate full bore in the Clippers' next full practice, likely Saturday. The LA Clippers are making sure to take it easy with their superstar forward Kawhi Leonard. Like the Toronto Raptors last season, the Clippers have adopted a similar load management schedule for Kawhi that doesn't require him to play in back-to-back games. The team has decided to sit Kawhi for tonight's game against the Milwaukee Bucks and reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. In response to the backlash, the Clippers, and the league have come forward to explain the decision. "Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league's resting policy, and, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the L.A. Clippers injury report, [...] The league office, in consultation with the NBA's director of sports medicine is comfortable with the team medical staff's determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time."