Kawhi Leonard, star of the Los Angeles Clippers, has been more closely linked than any other NBA player to load management and the league’s new player participation policy. However, at Monday’s media day, Leonard spoke out against the policy, saying, “There is no league rule that helps me play more.”
Leonard’s 2021–22 season was cut short due to his ACL injury. Since 2016–17, he has not had a season with more than 60 games played.
After being silent since tearing the meniscus in his right knee in April, during Game 1 of the Clippers’ first-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Leonard finally spoke up. Leonard, 32, has now been hurt in the playoffs on two separate occasions in the last three years, both times to his right knee. In the midst of the 2021 Western Conference semifinal run, he suffered a torn right ACL in the second round.
Leonard addressed a reporter’s question by explaining that he was on and off the court with the Toronto Raptors throughout the 2018-19 season due to knee injury rehabilitation.
He said, “Well, when I was with the Raptors, it was different; like, I was coming off an injury. I’m not a guy that’s sitting down because I’m doing load management.” The doctor is the only one who can fill you in on the specifics.
However, the league should desist from observing or mocking what I did with the Raptors since I was injured for the whole season. But other than that, I’ll play basketball if I’m well enough to do so. To get in shape for the season, I go to the gym every day throughout the summer. So, no rule in the league is allowing me to play more.
Leonard first inquired as to the specifics of the recently implemented regulation that specifies clubs must guarantee no more than one-star player is missing for the same game.
If our guys are healthy, they’re going to play,” Clippers head coach Ty Lue stated of the new stance. There’s this huge controversy, but it’s not true that our men don’t want to play or whatever. The soldiers on our side are eager to get going. The bad news is that they’ve been hurt. So, if our players are healthy, they’ll play, and that’s basically all we’re thinking about right now.
During the Clippers’ first-round series against the Suns in April, Leonard was injured in the meniscus. He battled through the pain to finish Game 2 of the series before being sidelined for the series’ last three contests. On June 6, Leonard had meniscus cleaning surgery.
Leonard said he didn’t do anything new to get in shape for the next season. Instead, he emphasized how unpredictable certain wounds may be.
“It’s a matter of if you’re going to trip on somebody; for a lot of my injuries last year, I stepped on someone’s foot or ran into somebody,” Leonard said. Listen to your body, stay active, and watch what occurs; you can only control what you can measure.
To this end, Leonard said, “You’re either going to be injured or you’re going to be fortunate enough to play games throughout the playoffs or the full regular season… I have no goal of attending a certain number of games. I’m doing my best to participate in whatever games I can. I can’t play basketball if I’m injured. My ACL has been torn for the last two years, and my meniscus has been torn at the conclusion of each year. It’s a ball game. It works both ways with me. I get hurt easily because I play so hard. I’m not simply strolling the streets at this point. Yes, I can defend and score equally well. Every game, I get to see the finest players from both teams. The best player is either protecting me or I am guarding the greatest player. That’s what would happen in the event of an injury.
Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations for the Clippers, claimed last week that both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are “fully healthy” heading into the team’s training camp in Hawaii after injuries sustained in the first-round series against Phoenix. George missed Game 1 with a right knee injury.
George responded to a question regarding the NBA’s new policy by saying, “If healthy, absolutely, I’m suiting up, and I want to play every night.”
Despite all the hype surrounding Leonard and George’s arrival in Los Angeles, the duo has struggled to stay healthy as a unit over the course of their four seasons with the Clippers. They only participated in 38 games together in 2017–18, and in a total of 142 games between the regular season and the playoffs, the team went 96–46.