Kawhi Leonard could sit out of LA Clippers’ first few preseason games

LA ClippersKawhi Leonard(Photo by Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
LA ClippersKawhi Leonard(Photo by Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images) /

According to multiple reporters, LA Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard could be joining Paul George on the bench for the first few preseason games.

For many fans of the LA Clippers, October 3 was supposed to be the first day they expected to see Kawhi Leonard in his new threads. After all, that’s the night of the team’s first preseason game, which will be played in Honolulu, Hawaii. But according to a few reporters, Leonard’s chances of playing are looking increasingly less likely.

The Athletic‘s Jovan Buha was the first to break the news via Twitter, reporting that Doc Rivers made it sound as though Leonard would not play in the Clippers’ first two preseason games, both of which take place in Hawaii.

This means that Leonard’s Clippers debut will happen as early as October 10, when LA hosts the Denver Nuggets in its preseason home opener. From there, the Clippers will play just two more preseason contests against Australian club Melbourne United and the Dallas Mavericks prior to the start of the regular season on October 22.

It would make a lot of sense if what Rivers said ends up coming true. There’s not necessarily a need for Leonard to play in either of those two games, and with Paul George already set to miss the entire month of October, the absence of the two superstars could give Rivers and the rest of LA’s coaching staff a chance to see what they have otherwise.

Buha also added that Leonard and George could have lighter practice sessions during the upcoming season in order to cut back on load management.

Leonard first mentioned that his approach to load management this season could be changing during his introductory press conference in July. There, he stated that playing the entire season was a goal of his and that he will be entering the 2019-2020 season in much better shape than he was with the Toronto Raptors.

George’s return date is less certain. Per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, he’s targeting a return in November. The expectation is that he’ll make his Clippers debut earlier in the month, but it’s still a possibility that he doesn’t play until the end of it. In that case, Leonard could be relied on a bit more heavily in the early goings.

Even without Leonard and George on the floor Thursday, Clippers fans will have plenty to look forward to in LA’s preseason debut. A good chunk of the team that won 48 games in a crowded Western Conference last season has returned, including Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green.

On top of that, some of LA’s new additions like Maurice Harkless, Terance Mann, Rodney McGruder and Mfiondu Kabengele should get a chance to show out. Harkless should be considered a likely candidate to start as well.

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With regular season basketball just three weeks away, it’s never been a better time to be a fan of the LA Clippers. This season is looking to be the most exciting in franchise history, and with championship aspirations, the stakes have never been higher.