On Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Clippers host the Milwaukee Bucks in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season. It was initially expected to feature last season’s NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard against reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Unfortunately, the matchup won’t happen because Leonard will be out due to load management relating to his knee, per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.
This will be the second game of the season that Kawhi has sat out due to load management. The two-time Finals MVP sat out in the Clippers’ first game against the Utah Jazz on November 30. Tonight’s matchup is the start of the Clippers’ back-to-back set of games. Leonard is expected to play against the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday night, per ESPN.
Kawhi Leonard: The Face of Load Management
Leonard is infamous for sitting out during nationally televised games due to load management. He’s sat out in one game so far this season and did so a number of times with the Toronto Raptors. The two-time Finals MVP played a total of 60 regular-season games for the Raptors.
Though many disagree on the idea of allowing players to sit out in big games, load management seems to work for Leonard. The 6’7″ forward prioritizes his health and takes adequate amounts of rest. Following multiple late-season days off due to load management, Leonard proceeded to lead the Raptors to their first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals and they went on to win the title. Though, no one will ever truly know if Kawhi’s stellar performance could be credited to the number of rest games Leonard took, one could certainly argue that it helped.
It is rather smart to sit out a key player during regular-season games. This may be frowned upon by many, but resting a main player when games are far less important can play a pivotal role in how well a team does in the playoffs.
Per the OC Register, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that the team will sit Kawhi on a “case-to-case basis.”
“Our goal is to have him playing and being fresh all year, and we’re doing that so far,” Rivers said. “I keep saying this: He’s not the only guy we’re having those conversations with, and every team is doing it. We’re just trying to do it, I don’t know, I’m trying to say more efficiently than others. But we’re learning as we go.
Kawhi Leonard X Giannis Antetokounmpo
The matchup slated for Wednesday night featuring Leonard and Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo would have definitely been a sight to see. If both players were on the floor, this game could have been a potential NBA Finals preview. The last time fans saw these two players go up against each other was last season. While with the Raptors, Leonard led his team in defeating the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, securing their spot in the NBA Finals.
Fans will have to wait for their next meeting on December 6 to see if Kawhi will take the court for a matchup against Giannis.