NBA in Threes Bonus Take: Load management, not a Kawhi Leonard problem

NBA LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
NBA LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Why we should embrace NBA load management instead of griping about it and who should be responsible for addressing the issues that Kawhi Leonard’s sitting out back-to-backs present

Sometimes an NBA topic comes up that requires and/or deserves a little more conversation than the traditional NBA in Threes format. For those discussions, we have NBA in Threes Bonus Takes. This time we’re talking about Kawhi Leonard and load management.

On November 6th, Kawhi Leonard sat out the Los Angeles Clippers game against the Milwaukee Bucks and there was no shortage of commentary. Doris Burke and Mark Jackson not to mention many fans felt some kinda way about the news.

Are you as tired of hearing about load management as I am?

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Good, we have something in common!

Oh, but wait. I should mention that I’m for load management. Did I lose some of you? That’s alright. For those of you still with me, at least hear me out.

Load management is brilliant! If you know your team is a playoff team and your key player is battling injuries or has a chronic problem as Leonard does, why wouldn’t you rest him? Yes, I know that people will argue that at least some of the concerns are about when the rest is happening. I’ll get to that.

If you think about it though, the basic idea of load management is a win, win, win.

The best players prolong their careers ultimately providing more entertainment value for a longer period of time. Win.

The best teams have their best talent available for the playoffs. Win.

The players and the league have a better relationship because the players feel like they’re valued for more than the stats the can put up. Win.

So, let’s talk about what the load management complainers get wrong. We’ll start with Doris Burke’s comments:

My first question is, when was the last time you played a 60-game NBA season and were the driving force behind a team playing an additional four playoff series to win an NBA title while managing chronic injuries, Doris Burke?

Oh, what’s that? That’s right, you’ve never done that. I’ve never done that. No one other than Kawhi Leonard has ever done that. So why are we judging what we clearly cannot have enough information to accurately assess? Namely, is Kawhi well enough to play in these back-to-back situations?

Also, you think that Kawhi doesn’t want to compete against the best!? Seriously!? Saying that makes you sound ridiculous. Kawhi Leonard is one of the most competitive players in the NBA. I learned that first-hand watching him play for the Raptors last season.

Oh, and by the way, why on earth would Leonard be avoiding playing against the MVP who he locked down in the Eastern Conference FInals? Or have we, conveniently for this argument forgotten, that the Raptors came back from 0-2 in that series to win four in a row after Leonard became the primary defender on Giannis.

During the broadcast, Mark Jackson said:

"I’m so glad there was no such thing a load management when I was playing."

When asked why by Mark Jones he continued:

"Just, with all due respect, no coach is going to tell me, or no doctor, unless I’m hurt that I should take the day off. No. Give me the day off tomorrow when we practice. I’m fine with that."

Oh geez! Where do I even start to pick this apart?

A friend and I were discussing this and he said something that seems very on-point. The OGs of the NBA who have an issue with load management low-key seem to really be saying, “I didn’t think I had the option of load management so I’m bitter that you do.”


First of all, can we all agree that anytime someone starts a sentence, “With all due respect.,” what they’re really saying is, “Zero respect given.” I mean, that’s understood, right? Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Maybe the technical classification of Leonard’s situation is hard for people to understand. No, he’s not technically injured, but he’s also not healthy. As far as I’m concerned, if that’s your argument you’re just playing semantics.

The league has determined that Kawhi does not currently meet the criteria of a healthy player.

Shortly after I had finished my initial draft of this piece, I saw that the Clippers had been fined $50,000 and someone I was debating this with sent me the news as supposed proof that he was right and Leonard should not have sat out. But let’s be clear about what the Clippers were fined for.

The Clippers were not fined for sitting Kawhi Leonard. As you can clearly see above, the league was fine with it. The Clippers were fined for, “statements  that were inconsistent with Leonard’s health status.”


“Hey, Doc Rivers! We agreed with your medical staff over the health status of your best player and allowed him to sit out against the Milwaukee Bucks. That was a big benefit to you and we knew this decision was going to create a lot of controversy and criticism. The least you could do is make sure your statements are consistent with what we’ve said and not make us look bad. Don’t let it happen again.”

Next, it’s a ridiculous notion that resting from practice is the same as resting from the actual competition when there’s a win or loss on the line. The length of a game compared to practice and intensity of playing for a win are two very different things.

I mean, I only played recreational basketball and I know that my competition level and the way I approached a game facing off in the rec league was very very different than when I was putting up shots on the local schoolyard court.

Also, if you think load management is about avoiding competition you’re completely missing the point. Kawhi is resting because he wants to complete when it really counts. We all know that playoff basketball is what matters to the top players in the league.

And let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that the media is conveniently leaving out key information to make this topic as controversial as possible.

If you have the time to expand into the comments on that tweet, there are even more excellent points to be had.

There’s a larger issue going on here. I’ve spoken on it before and I’m sure I will again.

Why do we think it’s okay for us to expect a person, a human being to destroy their bodies for our entertainment? A Google search will produce article after article chronicling promising NBA careers that were destroyed by injury. Those guys’ entire lives were changed by those injuries and today, we don’t even think of them most of the time.

Why should Kawhi Leonard be willing to permanently damage his body for our entertainment when a few years after he’s retired, his name won’t even cross most of our minds? Because we spent some money on a ticket or a sports package? That is simply not a responsible stance to take as a society.

Basketball players are not commodities. They’re people. They have families, friends, responsibilities that are bigger and more important than making sure that we get to see them play a game against a certain player.

“But the fans paid money,” you say. “It looks bad to the television partners,” you say. Fine, I’ll go there. I’ll pretend I agree that these very first world problems are more important than the health and well-being of a person.

Ultimately, it’s the league who should be taking on the responsibility for making sure the fans get what they paid for, their relationships with the television partners are maintained, and the well-being of the players is held as a top priority.

There’s an entire season worth of precedent for Leonard not playing in back-to-backs. So why has the league already scheduled the Clippers in two nationally televised back-to-back situations? Why not schedule Clippers to play the Jazz back-to-back with the Phoenix Suns instead of the San Antonio Spurs? Or do a back-to-back with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Hornets instead of the Portland Trail Blazers?

dark. Next. Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler took his talents and winning attitude to South Beach

Doris Burke says the league has a problem? Yeah, they do. But it isn’t load management. It’s scheduling.