Resting Kawhi Leonard in January must give a prize to the Raptors in the playoffs


TORONTO – As a Toronto Raptors fan, what is more interesting to you? Teams that win unimportant mid-season matches, 120-105, over the Sacramento Kings, opponents outside the conference, they will only see again if something terrible happens unprecedented and the Kings not only qualify for the playoffs for the first time in a dozen season, but reach the NBA Finals? Or the fact that Kawhi Leonard missed the third game in a row because of "load management," and is scheduled to miss Wednesday's fourth night when the Raptors play the Indiana Pacers?

If you answer the latter, the good news – you agree with the Raptors organization and its approach to Leonard's workload.

"This is a medical decision from our medical team," said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse before the match on Tuesday, hinting at the fact that he would rather play Leonard than not. "It's just a matter of load management. I think he's playing, what, 35, 36 matches now after playing nine years ago? This is just an opportunity to give him a long break."

In the grand scheme, Tuesday's match was contested mainly because of obligations. Hey, it's great that the Raptors played one of their most cohesive matches this season, distributing shots up and down in the line and getting a scoring effort from two separate players. It was very encouraging that they continued the strong three-point shooting on Saturday which defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, with a distance of 40 percent (16 of 40) from a distance. And that must be a big relief that C.J. Miles looks like C.J. Miles for the third consecutive game, scoring 15 on 5-of-7 shootings, including 4-of-5 out of reach.

But, coming in April, when the Raptors began what would be the most important and most important playoffs in their franchise history, match No. 49 out of 82 against Sacramento doesn't matter. Leonard's health, mindset and ability to compete in the highest possible effectiveness? That will mean a lot.

And that's the point. That is why, according to the Raptors, Leonard lost four consecutive matches flanking Blue Monday, which is not only the hardest and most difficult period of the Gregorian calendar year, but also the NBA regular season.

"I am worried that our team is ready and firing on all cylinders and is healthy and has risen when they need to peak at the end of the year," said the Nurse. "It's not just Kawhi. It's someone else. We will continue to manage their burden. That's half the reason why we haven't practiced for a few days and don't shoot a few days. We try to re-juice and re-energize and play a long game here a little. "

For conspiracy theorists: Nurses were asked directly on Tuesday whether Leonard was sitting in injury and answered firmly in negative. All you can do is bring it to his words. Practically every full-time player in the league carries a kind of illness at this time of year, and where the line between injury and injury is relative to each individual.

Now, Leonard seems to be working hard through lower body problems during the silly Raptors' victory and doubling over the Washington Wizards on January 13. Obviously something happened there. But that didn't stop him from playing 45 minutes and posting a 33 percent use rate that day, and that didn't stop him from playing 36 minutes with 29 percent of use against the Boston Celtics two days later.

If anything, Leonard played through half-low suffering in two matches should give Raptors more reason to be careful. They must actively avoid anything that has the potential to worsen the damage. Did the team become very mysterious about the whole situation? Sure. But that's what professional sports teams did in 2019, whether any of us like it or not. Organizations are very paranoid about letting go of competitive advantage, no matter how small. And, if you consider it from their point of view, they really have little benefit from being transparent.

There are privacy issues being played, too. Finally, it's up to Leonard how much is shared about his physical condition, as he should. This is his body. And does Leonard hit you as an open type book? If the Raptors commit to do everything possible to encourage Leonard to sign back this summer, they must prioritize their health and privacy.

Plus, the thing about Leonard is when he plays, he really plays. He came to Tuesday's fourth night on the team in minutes (Kyle Lowry only had two more) despite losing a quarter of Toronto's matches. He leads the Raptors with a usage rate of 30 percent; he scored at least 20 points in each of his last 20 matches. Leonard's minutes are not like the others. And that is not only a physiological problem.

"I think it's better mentally for you than physically," said Miles who rose again at the Raptors training ground on Monday when asked about Leonard's vacation. "I think his mental side must not be enough to talk about that far. And you think of a man like Kawhi, who, in every aspect of the game has a lot of things in his mind. everybody, I think [the rest] helped him a lot. "

And while most players will enjoy a long break next month during the NBA all-star week, Leonard will almost certainly not do it. Unless he refuses to attend the Charlotte celebration, he will be spent on trips, events, media obligations, and basketball exhibitions that are completely meaningless with his fellow stars. This won't be the hardest week, but it will still be costly.

Look, playing 82 consecutive matches from NBA basketball for six months is not the best way to beat an athlete because as many as four series of seven matches are playoffs. Especially 82 matches played with the incredible speed and intensity of the current NBA features.

But there are 82 matches on the schedule, and the team devotes a lot of time and resources to learning the best ways to manage them. Behind each NBA list, there is a team of health specialists who dedicate their entire day to ensuring that 15 or more athletes are physically and mentally ready to compete as much as possible. If the Raptors believe that the best thing for Leonard's health and longevity is not to play for a week in mid-January, then be it. They only have more information, more expertise, and a more thorough understanding of what is best for Leonard than us.

And, as is often overlooked, the Raptors are in a very favorable position to deal with Leonard optimally because of how deep and talented their list is. Toronto has been in first or second place in the Eastern Conference for the whole season, and has played 11-2 in a match that Leonard missed. Based on the ability to win consistently without him, the Raptors can manage Leonard's workload much more effectively.

That's a good thing. That's the advantage that the Raptors have compared to their competitors. The Charlotte Hornets cannot be careful with Kemba Walker. The Detroit Pistons can't let Blake Griffin take a week off.

Tuesday, the nurse said Leonard "will definitely play Friday in Houston." If he doesn't? Feel spiral free. For now, the process is worthy of trust.


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