Kawhi Leonard on NBA's new policy: 'If I'm able to play, I'll play basketball'

Los Angeles, CA, Thursday, March 3, 2022 - Injured Clippers teammates Paul George, left, and Kawhi Leanord on the bench during a game against the Lakers at Crypto.Com Arena. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The new NBA policy pushing its All-Star and all-league-caliber players to play more often won’t change the way Clippers star Kawhi Leonard prepares, he said Monday, adding that he will continue to play whenever healthy.

Leonard and Clippers teammate Paul George have become the face of the new NBA player participation policy, which takes effect this season. Leonard’s regimen of so-called “load management” coming off a leg injury helped him lead Toronto to the 2019 NBA championship and the Clippers have been cautious with managing his workload in his four seasons since then.

Leonard tore the meniscus in his right knee in April during the team’s first-round playoff loss to Phoenix, two years after tearing the ACL in the same knee.

During the team’s media day at their practice facility, Leonard said at first he did not know what the new rules were. Given an example by a reporter, Leonard said, “I’m not a guy that’s sitting down because I’m doing load management. Well, when I was with the Raptors, it was different. Like, I was coming off an injury. And you have to know the details from the doctor.

“But if the league is seeing or trying to mock what I did with the Raptors it should stop because I was injured during that whole year. But other than that if I’m able to play, I’ll play basketball. I work out every day in the summertime to play the game not to sit and watch people play. So no league policy is helping me to play more games.”

George is also coming back from a season-ending knee injury that he suffered in March. He said that even had the Clippers advanced to last season’s NBA Finals, in June, he would not have been ready to play on the knee. Last April, on the day of the Clippers’ season-ending loss in Phoenix, he said he felt he was only a few weeks away from being able to return.

Read more: Clippers open another training camp with title hopes and plenty of concerns

Asked whether he felt an obligation to play as often as possible, George said he did.

“Absolutely. It just comes down to the guys that you’re out there with and obviously the fans,” George said. “So, yeah, I 100% agree with the obligation that you should play.

"Now there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it, with injuries and being smart and not trying to play through something that could possibly keep you out longer than what you want to be. But if healthy, absolutely I’m suiting up and I want to play every night.”

Read more: Clippers say they aren't sending messages, but Paul George and Kawhi Leonard need to play

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.