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Kawhi Leonard on load management: ‘I don’t think I’d be playing right now’ without it

2019 NBA Finals - Game Two

TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 02: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors reacts late in the game against the Golden State Warriors during Game Two of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 02, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Kawhi Leonard sat out 22 Toronto games this season, mostly in the name of “load management.” Coming off a season where he played just nine games due to a quadriceps tendon injury, Toronto and Leonard’s team of advisors put together a road map that would try to keep his leg healthy and him rested heading into the playoffs.

It worked. Fans (and the people in the league office) may not have liked the discussion of rest during the regular season again, but Leonard has led Toronto to the Finals and averaged 29 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists through three games of the NBA Finals. Toronto is up 2-1 and Leonard could be on the road to his second NBA Finals MVP.

He told Rachel Nichols of ESPN none of that happens without the load management during the season.

“It was big. When it got bad, we ended up taking, you know, four or five games off. And, you know, if we didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here right now...

“I don’t think I’d be playing right now if I would’ve tried to go through that season [without a load management plan].”

Wherever Leonard plays next season, expect the same plan — he’s going to have a lot of “load management” nights.

The science on this is clear: Players perform better and are less likely to be injured when they get more rest. For a team like Toronto (or Golden State) that will play more than 100 games between the regular season and playoffs, prioritizing rest is the only real option.

Which leads to a conversation about shortening the season... that should wait for another day.