Last season with the Toronto Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard won the NBA Finals MVP award and took his team to their first-ever NBA championship. He only played in 60 regular-season games as he was coming back from a major injury, and was sidelined a quarter of last season’s games due to load management.
This past summer, Leonard left Toronto and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. This season he is on the same schedule as last and is load managing his knee. He has yet to participate in both games of any scheduled back-to-backs and is on pace to participate in 60 regular-season games again.
For this reason, on an episode of First Things First, sports analyst Chris Broussard said that Leonard does not deserve to be in MVP conversations but is one of the best players in the world.
“Kawhi has willingly taken himself out of the top tier regular season awards. He is showing you it is all about the playoffs. I’m about rings. I don’t think he cares if he is in the MVP race. Now, he is clearly one of the best players in the league, but should he be in it? No,” Broussard said. “Now, he is one of the best players in the world. I think that he should be in the discussion of best player in the world, when he plays.”
Kawhi Leonard X Load Management
Leonard is infamous for using load management and has received a lot of backlash this season for sitting out so much this early on in the season. The team has had six scheduled back-to-back games and the reigning Finals MVP has yet to participate in both halves of any games scheduled on consecutive nights.
The second game that the Klaw decided to sit out this season was for a nationally televised game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Fans were especially excited for this game and had anticipated seeing the reigning NBA Finals MVP go up against the reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo for the first time since last season’s finals. This decision to load manage Kawhi took a turn for the worst as the team was fined $50,000 following the Clippers-Bucks game. The league deemed that the team’s decision to sit Leonard was consistent with league rules but their statements were not. The inconsistencies were in regards to Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers saying that Leonard has never felt better,” and that he “feels great.”
The $50k fine has not seemed to take a toll on the Klaw, nor has all the backlash that he has received. He still sits out when he wants to and he still load manages when necessary. Though he has not been present for all of his team’s games, he is still posting incredible numbers that could deem him as the best player in the world. So far this season, Leonard is averaging 25.8 points, 7.9 boards and 5.1 assists a game. He is currently shooting 45% from the field and 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.
The Los Angeles Clippers host the Phoenix Suns next on Tuesday for their first game back after playing six games straight on the road. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. PST.