After powering the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, Kawhi Leonard left Canada with his head held high. Playing flat-out for Nick Nurse’s outfit, Leonard helped lessen the doubts surrounding his professionalism and strike in San Antonio, by giving his all to a team he ultimately knew he wouldn’t be staying at come summer. However, though doubts have been minimized regarding his attitude off-court, health concerns remain.
During the latter stages of the NBA Playoffs, there were signs of mortality breaking through his robotic, machine-like efficiency. The Raptors deployed ‘load management’ on Leonard and it was greatly appreciated by the player after being plagued by quad injuries. This management is designed to maximize the player’s performance when he takes to the court, while minimizing risk of injury by carefully managing his minutes.
This undoubtedly worked in the short term, delivering a championship to Toronto with a historic win over the Golden State Warriors. However, in the long term, Leonard’s health is an issue for his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite finishing the season in June, the two-time NBA champion is still wearing a protective wrap around his left knee.
Toronto were very patient with Leonard in order to get the most out of him and slowly became one of the top NBA picks to go all the way and lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy, resting him for 22 regular-season games. But even then, his body was fragile. The knee issue is likely a result of him overcompensating for a lingering right quadriceps injury stemming from beyond two seasons ago.
This won’t be new information to the Clippers so fully expect Leonard to get regular rest throughout the season with his superstar partner Paul George in order to recharge their batteries for the Playoffs. A factor which will greatly benefit Steve Ballmer’s rejuvenated franchise will be the depth they boast.
Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet and Maurice Harkless would be an impressive roster to begin with, even without the star duo. This depth will allow the workload to be shared more evenly.
Since Ballmer took over the Clippers, they have quickly modernized and put in place fantastic back-room staff to transform what once was a stagnant franchise in search of an identity. Moving out of the Los Angeles Lakers’ shadow, the Clippers new face of the franchise, Leonard, has the power to assert the team’s dominance in California.
Once reportedly mismanaged by the San Antonio Spurs’ medical staff, Clippers fans can rest assured in the knowledge that their team’s department is perhaps the best in the league. If Leonard stays healthy, a Finals appearance beckons for Los Angeles’ new powerhouse.