NBA Rumor: Kawhi Leonard Rest

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Leonard shared his displeasure for receiving criticism on his load-management program and for the NBA fining the Clippers $50,000 for coach Doc Rivers making comments “that were inconsistent with his health status.” “It’s just disappointing. It feels like they want players to play even if they’re not ready,” Leonard said of the NBA. “I don’t read into it. I have to do what will make me healthy and help the team be successful. That’s me being able to play basketball games for us.”

The NBA reiterated in a statement on Thursday that “the team’s decision to sit Leonard for management of an injury was consistent with league rules.” The NBA only fined the Clippers because Rivers said before Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee that Leonard “feels great, but he feels great because of what we’ve been doing.” The NBA believed Rivers’ comment undercut the league’s support of the Clippers for resting Leonard for an actual injury.

First things first. Sources tell The Athletic that there is a paper trail of sorts here that led to the NBA approving this particular choice. After consulting with the Clippers’ medical staff, and being told why it was important for Leonard’s health that he be granted this right to rest days in advance, league officials decided that it was not a breach of protocol. Sources with knowledge of the Clippers’ thinking, meanwhile, indicate that Leonard is not a fully healthy player and his health history, coupled with all the science and data that they’ve compiled on that front, demands this kind of approach.

Playing in back-to-backs is clearly a cause for major concern for Leonard. The television component was extremely problematic, too, as this set of games (against Milwaukee and Portland on Thursday night) is on national TV (ESPN and TNT, respectively) and those games will always come with more scrutiny. The Clippers, sources say, believe they were put in a bad situation here because of the league’s decision to schedule back-to-back national TV games. “The issue is take away all back-to-backs,” Rivers said of a potential solution to players resting one game of a back-to-back. “That would be one. Sometimes guys get nicked and they shouldn’t play. They just shouldn’t. There’s no way around it. There really isn’t. I’m not smart enough to have a solution to it. I’m just not.”

Leonard said he feels healthy, while the NBA released a statement corroborating the opinion of the Clippers’ medical staff, which deemed him unfit to play. Head coach Doc Rivers cleared up that disagreement on Wednesday after a 129-124 loss to the Bucks. “He feels great. But he feels great because of what we’ve been doing, you know,” said Rivers, according to Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints. “We’re just going to continue to do it. There’s no concern here. But we want to make sure. I think Kawhi made a statement that he’s never felt better. It’s our job to make sure he stays that way. That’s important. But he played a lot of minutes in the playoffs last year. So, it’s not, uh, a health thing really. It is in some ways. We want him to just keep feeling better and getting better.”
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