The topic of load management has been discussed at nauseam due to the injury situation with Kawhi Leonard and his knee this season.
Load Management Has Been Trending for Years
If you want to know a guy is an old school NBA person, ask them about load management. Then sit back and watch them go off about how players these days are soft. In the old days, call it pre-2010’s, resting when you weren’t injured was unthinkable. Please read that last part again for clarification. I said if you’re not injured.
There’s a big difference between hurt and injured. Hurt means that you have some discomfort but can go. For the record, Kawhi Leonard isn’t injured and nobody but him knows if he’s hurt. There’s clearly something going on with his knee, we think it’s his knee, for the last 3 years. Two seasons ago, his last in San Antonio, he sat out the entire season which ultimately saw his relationship with the team deteriorated to the point that he was traded.
The Spurs Started This Load Management Trend
This is where this story gets a little tricky because the Spurs are the ones that started this whole load management trend. In fact, they used to do it for nationally televised games on purpose. At the time, it was their way of sticking up their middle finger at then commissioner David Stern for what they felt was an unnecessarily difficult schedule before the would play on national tv.
Spurs Had a Unique Situation
They also had a unique situation with 2 ageing stars (Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili) and another in Tony Parker that was dealing with a ton of injury issues. Fast forward to Kawhi’s knee injury and that’s where things get tricky. They gave Kawhi the time off he needed to heal his injury. Or so they felt at the time. The problem was, Kawhi didn’t agree and would not return until he felt healthy. According the Spurs medical staff, there was nothing wrong with Leonard and he could return to play. He did not agree and we know what happened after that. Suddenly, the team that popularized load management had a situation where their main guy felt that they weren’t giving him enough time.
Once LeBron Started Doing It There Was a Problem
During his second sting with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James began sitting out games due to load management and the basketball world had a meltdown. It was one thing when San Antonio’s old guys sat out some games, now the best player in the league was doing it? Unacceptable.
This is Becoming a League Wide Trend
Except we then started seeing it pop up every now and again with every team in the league with a start. Last season when Kawhi helped guide the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, he missed over 20 games due to load management. The uproar was not quite the same for a few reasons. First, he was playing in Canada, not Los Angeles. Second, nobody knows exactly what’s wrong with him. HIs team has played 8 games this season and he’s already sat out two of them. After the way he performed in the Finals last year, many consider him to be the best player in the league. If that’s true, people will not take kindly to him missing games with an injury nobody is sure is real.