The last time Kawhi Leonard got off the bench, he was 21. In his second season in the NBA, it was his first game back in the lineup after missing about a month with quadriceps tendinitis.
He spent some time in rehab with the San Antonio Spurs’ G League affiliated team before returning .
Before training camp, Clippers president Lawrence Frank emphasized that the Clippers will take a cautious approach to Leonard’s return from a torn ACL. Load management isn’t new for Leonard, and if he’s going to severely limit minutes, the move makes it easier for the coaching staff to manage the rotation and make sure he’s available at the end of games.
Leonard hasn’t played a meaningful game since tearing his right ACL in Game 4 of the second round against the Utah Jazz on June 14, 2021 . He played limited minutes in two of the Clippers’ four preseason games .
Los Angeles Clippers have been considering the possibility of bringing Kawhi Leonard off the bench to start the season in order to manage his minutes, league sources tell @YahooSports.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 20, 2022
Longer rest time
Making Leonard the sixth man is one way to control his minutes, but it also doesn’t seem necessary. Tyronn Lue could start his star player directly, but bring him to the bench earlier and give him a longer break.
Clippers have a lot of quality wing role players behind Leonard and Paul George: Norman Powell, Nicolas Batum, Terrence Mann, Luke Kennard, Amir Coe Faye and Robert Covington.
It’s not hard to keep Leonard’s minutes and win a lot of games. Of course, these also require Leonard’s signature.