The LA Clippers should load manage Kawhi Leonard and Paul George versus Portland.
The LA Clippers have not played one of their eight regular-season games in Orlando with a full roster. First, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were away from the team. Then, right as Williams rejoined the group, Patrick Beverley aggravated his quad. Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers, they should go one step further and load manage Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Why? There are a few reasons.
For the Clippers, the Saturday tipoff is early at 1:00 PM EST. This equates to a 10:00 AM PST start time for their bodies which have probably partially adjusted to east coast time but probably haven’t al the way. When players come out sluggish, mistakes happen which makes injury concerns raise.
The second reason is due to the game on Saturday being the first of a back-to-back. This game is likely the harder of the two with the second game on Sunday coming against a skeleton crew Brooklyn Nets. If the Clips are satisfied with going 1-1 over these two games, they should look at Brooklyn as an easier win that they can pull off while not playing Kawhi and PG big minutes.
The main reason they should rest their two superstars isn’t for a reason that directly effects the Clippers, however. It’s all about the Lakers.
Portland is currently just one loss out of eighth place, trailing the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis has struggled in the bubble and has lost Jaren Jackson Jr. for the remainder of the season. Portland has the opportunity to pass them and move into eighth. Even though there will likely be a play-in game between the eighth and ninth seed, every win helps.
The Blazers have looked damn good in Orlando, behind Damian Lillard‘s leadership. The return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins has taken them to another level and the team could be a real threat to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. No, Carmelo Anthony nor Gary Trent Jr. will stand a chance at guarding LeBron James but none of the Lakers’ guards can stack up to Dame or CJ McCollum.
Am I saying the Lakers definitely won’t advance if they play Portland? Of course not. Still, Portland will give them a tough challenge and could tire them out with a long series, something that might benefit the Clippers if the two teams face each other in the Western Conference Finals.