Raptors teammates happy to share the load with Leonard
|Toronto Star 21 Jan 2019 at 15:22|
Miles played for Indiana in 2014-15, a season in which Pacers all-star forward Paul George managed just six April appearances after suffering a gruesome right leg injury the previous August â€” during a scrimmage with the United States national team. George suffered compound fractures to his right tibia and fibula.
Raptor Kawhi Leonard is among the NBAâ€™s top 10 scorers, one season after missing all but nine games with a leg injury.Â Â (Tim Bradbury / GETTY IMAGES file photo)
Miles saw how much work George put in to get back to the dominant player he was â€“ now with the Oklahoma City Thunder, George is among the NBAâ€™s top 10 scorers â€” and that process reminds him of what Raptors teammate Kawhi Leonard is going through now.
Leonard played just nine games with the San Antonio Spurs last season because of a right quad injury. The work it took to get from there to here â€” Leonard is averaging 27.6 points a game, fifth-best in the league â€” puts the Raptorsâ€™ â€śload managementâ€ť regimen for their star forward in perspective.
Leonard didnâ€™t practise with the team on Monday â€” a â€śscheduled maintenance checkup,â€ť said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse â€” and eight of the 12 games heâ€™s missed this season have been attributed to the need for rest.
â€śIt was an ideal time with two days in between, this time of year,â€ť Nurse said Monday. â€śHeâ€™ll be back here (Tuesday).â€ť
Leonard sat out back-to-back games in November because of a sore left ankle, and again on consecutive nights in December because of a bruised right hip. It wasnâ€™t until last week â€” home dates against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday and Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday â€” that he had missed consecutive games when healthy.
Most of the enforced time off has coincided with the Raptorsâ€™ nine back-to-backs to date. He has yet to play on consecutive days this season, usually sitting out the second. That points to another break for Leonard â€” whose longest stretch of games played this season is nine â€” when the Raptors visit the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, after hosting the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
The club has just two back-to-backs remaining after this weekâ€™s Kings-Pacers double: March 10 and 11 (road dates with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers); March 17 and 18 (in Detroit, then home to the New York Knicks).
In the midst of a gruelling NBA season, one or two games off might not be enough to deal with any physical problems, Miles said. Mentally, though, it can pay significant dividends.
â€śYou think about a guy like Kawhi who, (in) every facet of the game, has so much on his mind â€” what heâ€™s playing through and the double teams, and guarding the best guy, coming down the stretch and trying to make plans for everybody,â€ť said Miles. â€śI think that helps him a lot.â€ť
The logic doesnâ€™t only apply to Leonard, added Raptor Danny Green.
â€śWherever you can get a day off, itâ€™s big,â€ť said Green, who was also Leonardâ€™s teammate in San Antonio before a blockbuster off-season trade. â€śPut money in the bank, especially for the future â€¦ Weâ€™re playing for April, May and June. Weâ€™re not playing for right now.â€ť
The 31-year-old Green, who has missed just two games this season, couldnâ€™t help but slip in a few good-natured jabs at his longtime teammate, four years his junior.
â€śHeâ€™s getting older,â€ť Green joked. â€śHeâ€™s getting old so, you know, you got to take a couple days here and there.â€ť