Evanson Column: Load management? Kawhi me a river
Load management. Ever heard of that? If so, not likely prior to last year and quite possibly not before this past week, when Los Angeles Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard sat during a nationally televised home game versus the Milwaukie Bucks and defending league MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Not as a result of injury, but more so with the idea of preventing one.
This isn't new. After all, Leonard missed 20 games last season in an effort to protect against a quad injury he suffered in 2017 and which caused him to miss nearly the entirety of the 2017-2018 season, his last with the San Antonio Spurs. The Clippers said he was hurt, head coach Doc Rivers later said he wasn't, and in the wake of the coach's comments the league fined the team $50,000 citing that the franchise had "undercut the league's support of the Clippers for resting Leonard for an actual injury."
In other words: it's OK to lie, just don't admit to doing it after we support your line of BS.
Welcome to the 2019 NBA, where employees dictate the rules to the employers paying them hundreds of millions of dollars, and the fans fitting the bill back them despite those same players' blatant disregard for the product guys like Leonard are denying them.
The average ticket price to an NBA game is more than $90. The average price to see a premiere team like the Golden State Warriors is more than $250, and the average price for a game featuring a superstar player like Antetokounmpo can be more than $480, like it was when the 2017-2018 Cleveland Cavaliers played at Golden State. That's a lot of coin to watch the game's elite, but an absurd amount to see those same elite players sit on the bench. But while angering many, others defend Leonard's behavior not because they think it's good for the game, but because they so dislike the establishment that they'll compromise their own ethics just to "stick it to the man."
You see, what Leonard and others like him are doing, is playing you and me for a fool. They want to call all the shots, make all the money, then tell you they're getting screwed in the process, when in reality it's you the fan that's getting the short end of the stick.
Players are now forcing their way out of contracts, and to teams and cities they desire with nothing but themselves in mind. They paint themselves as the exploited, hitch their wagon to that of the common man in an effort to rally support, and when they turn their back on those same "commoners" down the road, we buy what they're selling — hook, line and sinker.
But not this guy. Not anymore.
Do they play too many regular season games in the NBA? Yes.
Does that number of games and the frequency with which they play them lend itself to injury? Likely.
And would the players benefit from a health standpoint, based on a lesser, more widespread workload? Of course. But who in life and in any other profession wouldn't be both physically and mentally healthier with a little less on their plate? And no one's paying us millions to do it.
For more than 50 years NBA players have played 82 games. For that same half-century players have been getting hurt. That's part of the game. You can't avoid it, much like you can't avoid an occasional stiff neck from sleeping, sore back from playing too much golf, or the fatigue that comes with caring for a newborn baby. It's part of the deal. NBA players like Leonard get paid a lot of money to play basketball with the risk of injury, not to sit in an effort to avoid it.
Players have always gotten hurt, but now players like Leonard are acting as if its possibility is not what they signed up for.
Kawhi Leonard is making $32 million this year, will make $34 million next year and $36 million the year after that. He's made $84 million prior to this season, and at 28 years old he'll likely make another $150 million to $200 million on another contract before he's through, quite possibly surpassing $400 million in his career. No one's asking him to play hurt; I'm not even asking him to play through a nagging injury. I'm just asking him to play healthy. Where's the harm in that?
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