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Kawhi Sits and Clippers Fans Stew

November 8th, 2019 · No Comments · Basketball, Clippers, NBA

Los Angeles Clippers supporters have been waiting a long time for their team to win an NBA championship. Or play for a championship. Or even get into the Western Conference finals. None of which the club has accomplished.

Which seems to have made many of them impatient.

They figured Kawhi Leonard, architect of the Toronto Raptors championship last season, was the marquee signing of the offseason, and they are eager to see him out there playing for the red, white and blue.

But, apparently, they did not carefully read up on the situation pertaining to Leonard and how much he will play under a system sometimes known as “load management”.

Kawhi sat out Wednesday’s game with the Milwaukee Bucks so as not to wear down his body in the season’s first month.

The idea is to keep him fresh-ish during the 82-game regular season. Leonard has a history of injuries, including a mysterious thigh injury that cost him most of the 2017-18 season.

Not surprisingly, a lot of fans think “load management” is a load. Like those who turned out to see the Clippers play the Bucks, led by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokoumnpo.

Said one, to ESPN:

“It is garbage, man. It’s like having garbage in the house, 90 degrees, the AC hasn’t worked in two weeks. It’s hot garbage.

“We paid for you to be a millionaire and this is how you’re acting.”

Not all reactions were as colorful as that one.

But, clearly, a significant number of fans were unhappy to be at Staples Center on a night when the Clippers played but their new star did not. Despite not being injured.

Also clear, is that some fans did not get the “load management” memo.

I thought we all knew he was going to sit out a lot of games. It was 22 last year, and I expect it will be more this time around, now that he has another season of mileage on him.

(Though, yes, the Clippers ought to see if they can arrange to have most of Leonard’s “rest nights” come on road games, so that hometown fans get to see Kawhi as often as possible.)

The key to the Clippers’ season is their best player remaining healthy. There already are enough hazards on that “94-by-50 chunk of hardwood” (as Chick Hearn called it) … that if you have the juice to avoid 25 percent of the 82-game regular season, well, you do it.

Most players are not so confident in their status and prefer as many minutes as management will give them.

But there are exceptions. LeBron James is 35 and he probably should sit more than a dozen games. Same with his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, who arrived with “handle with care” printed on his shorts. Ditto, for Kevin Durant. And maybe even Paul George, Kawhi’s Clippers teammate who already is missing games because of injury.

I think the Clips’ only real goal in the regular season is a top-four conference finish, to limit their exposure to top West teams to two series, maximum. They seem deep enough to manage that without their superstar playing 82. Or 72. Or even 62.

Pretty soon, fans will figure out that Kawhi apparently is never going to play the front end of a two-games-back-to-back situation.

Thus, budget your ticket purchases … and mark your calendars accordingly.


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