Part Time Vibes?
As funny as this tweet is, it's something that we must speak on. Since Kawhi Leonard's messy departure from the San Antonio Spurs in 2018, he has been a consistent name on the injury report. It has become the norm for Kawhi to miss some games during the season. Up until this point, he has gotten away with it.
Twenty four games into the 2022-2023 season, Kawhi is back to his old ways. He has only played in five games so far due to right knee injury management. LA Clippers fans and players must wait and see how this will play out for the rest of the season, just like they have the past two seasons.
If there is anything that I preach and standby for, it is continuity and chemistry. The Los Angeles Clippers have had an absence of both in the past three seasons. Leonard has logged 57, 52, and 0 games played in those past three seasons respectively. Although his averages of 25.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.7 steals in those three seasons scream superstar production. Yet, every season is reduced to a second-round playoff exit to a team they should have beaten. Hindsight is 20/20 without a shadow of a doubt. When Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joined forces, the NBA world was almost certain they would walk away with at least one Larry O'Brien trophy. Fast forward to the present day, and it's year four together with nothing to show for it.
Kawhi's method of load management is proven. Ask the Toronto Raptors. After witnessing him play at the peak of his game during his legendary 2018-2019 playoff run, it would be foolish not to rest Kawhi when he feels overworked. It would be foolish to not keep him fresh for the playoffs after seeing what he's capable of doing. The only thing is we haven't witnessed him do that in a Clippers jersey yet.
Season four has started off mirroring all the other seasons. The trends point towards there being a repeat of the past. These are just words I'm typing right now. Who knows what will happen? That's the beauty of the game of basketball. The beauty of the NBA is we never know what can happen. The season is still young, but as things are right now, the Clippers have to figure things out regarding Kawhi's health and the team's continuity.
Is Kawhi Leonard the first part-time player in NBA history? I don't know probably by a little bit.
That title run with the Toronto Raptors gave him a lot of wiggle room. A victim of coddling, this will go on as long as the Clippers allow it. It didn't start today; it's been building up.
Kawhi is 31 years old and has already missed a plethora of games. In the latter stages of his career, I can only see this problem continuing to grow. Imagine how many games he'll be missing at the age of 34. Will he even be playing that long? When the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard and traded away those picks and Shai Gigeous Alexander to Oklahoma City for Paul George, they went all in.
Today, Gilgeous Alexander is one of the league's brightest stars and is steadily establishing himself as a franchise centerpiece. A loss for the Clippers if you ask me. Look at where they are at with the Kawhi situation. Look at the lack of postseason success.
With all the young teams and established teams establishing themselves as contenders, the Clippers have to capitalize on this small window they have right now before it is too late. That all starts with Kawhi Leonard spending more time on the court and less time on the bench in street clothes. No more part-time vibes.