Kawhi Leonard is not happy about the NBA’s new Player Participation Policy. In fact, Leonard seemed to take it as a personal jab by the association when asked about it during the Clippers media day. The so-called “king” of Los Angeles is not impressed with the new rule and says it won’t help him play more.
“If the league is trying to mock what I did with the Raptors, it should stop because I was injured during that whole year,” Leonard said. “… No league policy is helping me to play more games.”
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Over the past few years, Leonard has garnered a reputation as the poster boy for “load management” around the league. Whether fair or foul, that’s been Kawhi’s moniker around the league for some time now. This was big because we rarely hear Leonard speak, and he sounded quite agitated at the notion of this new rule.
Some have dubbed this the “Kawhi Leonard rule,” which might be a bit harsh. However, optics mean everything, especially in the social media age, where we get news and updates by the minute. Sitting out the front or back end of back-to-back games when it’s clearly a situation of “resting” will raise eyebrows if done frequently enough.
That’s not to say Leonard hasn’t been injured a lot, especially since moving to Los Angeles to play with the Clippers. Leonard resting may not always be his choice as sometimes the team will decide to sit a player who’s recently recovered from injury or “manage” their load. Steph Curry spoke on this earlier this year, saying many times it’s the team’s decision to sit a player.
“I campaign to play every game,” Curry told the media. “That’s the misconception about load management. It’s never the player that’s saying, ‘Hey, I wanna sit.’”
Hearing Curry say this isn’t a surprise because San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made the whole load management phenomenon popular years ago. That goes back well over a decade. Let’s not forget Curry’s head coach, Steve Kerr played for Popovich toward the end of his career, so it makes sense. But as star players, it’s hard to believe they have no say in whether they play or sit. In a star-driven league, it’s hard to sell that ticket.
Either way, the NBA is looking to correct this for the sake of fans (and TV networks) spending hard-earned money to see certain players on the court. Leonard may indeed be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of load management, but he isn’t the only culprit by any means.
Like most rules, someone will find a way to circumvent what the NBA is attempting to clean up. It’s just a matter of when, not if, and how commissioner Adam Silver decides to deal with the guilty parties. It’s hard to tell an athlete they must play and aren’t injured enough to miss a game. The association is entering murky waters concerning this new rule.