For the second straight Wednesday, the Los Angeles Clippers are holding Kawhi Leonard out of a nationally-televised game for load management reasons regarding an injury to his left knee.
There wasn’t much uproar about Leonard missing the fifth game of the season against Utah last Wednesday. After ESPN missed out on Leonard for the second consecutive week, however, this time against the reigning MVP in a pseudo-rematch of the Eastern Conference finals, there was a little more consternation online about the practice of load management.
Doris Burke, an ESPN analyst, said it was “mind-boggling” that Leonard (and by extension, the Clippers) would choose to play against Portland Thursday, notably on TNT, instead of against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks and worried about the long-term ramifications for television providers should this trend continue.
The NBA theoretically restricts teams from resting healthy players in nationally-televised games and can choose to impose a $100,000 fine if the rule is broken. No such fine was applied to Leonard’s rest against the Jazz, though, and it is now clear why after a release from NBA spokesman Mike Bass to Adrian Wojnarowski, also of ESPN.
Bass continued: "…is comfortable with the team medical staff's determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time." https://t.co/UfoVeWC513
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 6, 2019
Wojnarowski further went on to illuminate that the “Clippers have worked closely with NBA, sharing required medical information on Leonard’s knee.” So long as the league office is in the loop about Leonard’s health status, which is that he is currently not able to participate in back-to-backs, the Clippers are not in violation of league rules.
The Clippers have 11 more back-to-backs this season, six of which feature national TV games, though four of those are on NBA TV. As many have pointed out, if the schedule-makers put national games on back-to-backs, planned rest is a consequence of that decision. Once Paul George returns, the Clippers are likely to rest him in similar situations as well.
Fans and ESPN may be disappointed that Leonard won’t be on their televisions again on Wednesday night, but the Clippers have handled Leonard’s rest according to the letter of the law. Unless the NBA changes its policy, or its schedule, this is the league’s reality.