Sunday, March 26

Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard might come off the bench at the beginning of the season, per report

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The last time Kawhi Leonard came off the bench, he was 21 years old. He was in his second season in the NBA, and it was his first game back in the lineup after missing about a month with quadriceps tendinitis. Before his return, he spent some time rehabbing with the San Antonio SpursSpurs G League affiliate, then called the Austin Toros. 

Leonard started the other 57 games in which he appeared that season. He even started most of his games as a rookie. If he ever comes off the bench again, it will feel unusual — just ask Russell Westbrook

And it might happen as soon as Thursday. According to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, the Los Angeles Clippers are thinking about using the two-time Finals MVP as a sixth man. Temporarily.

Before training camp, Clippers president Lawrence Frank emphasized that the Clippers would take a cautious approach to Leonard’s return from a torn ACL. Load management is nothing new for Leonard, and if he’s going to be on a strict minutes limit, this move makes it simpler for the coaching staff to manage the rotation and make sure he’s available at the end of games. This is the same reason that the Golden State Warriors brought Stephen Curry off the bench at the beginning of the 2022 playoffs. 

During the Warriors’ first-round series, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone called Curry “the greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs.” This isn’t the playoffs, but if Leonard isn’t in the starting lineup for the Clippers’ season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers, then Curry does have some competition for the title of Greatest Fake Sixth Man Ever. 

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