Star forward Kawhi Leonard won’t play Wednesday night in a much-anticipated nationally televised showdown with Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the NBA doesn’t have a problem with it, according to an ESPN report.
The Los Angeles Clippers listed Leonard on the injury report with a knee injury, meaning the club is within its rights to rest Leonard on the front end of a back-to-back.
“Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league’s resting policy, and, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the L.A. Clippers injury report,” spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN. “The league office, in consultation with the NBA’s director of sports medicine, is comfortable with team medical staff’s determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time.”
Leonard has yet to play both games of a back-to-back this season and last played in a set in April 2017, when he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard played in just nine games for the Spurs in 2017-18 due to a quadriceps injury and played in just 60 of 82 regular-season games for the Toronto Raptors last season.
Leonard’s Raptors defeated Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals last season en route to Toronto winning the NBA title.
That backdrop made Wednesday’s meeting between NBA Finals MVP Leonard and reigning league MVP Antetokounmpo — televised by ESPN — one of the marquee matchups of the first half of the season.
Leonard also sat out the front end of the back-to-back on Oct. 30 against the Utah Jazz, a game also televised by ESPN. He played the following night against the San Antonio Spurs.
Ironically, the Clippers have another nationally televised game on Thursday. The matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers will be shown by TNT, and Leonard is expected to play.
ESPN reported that the Clippers don’t currently have plans to start using Leonard in back-to-back games.
Leonard is averaging 29.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals in six games.