Kawhi Leonard Praises Raptors for Doing a 'Great Job' Managing His Health

Megan ArmstrongContributor IIIMarch 13, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, playing in his first game against the San Antonio Spurs since he was traded, warms up before an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

The term load management has been mocked around the NBA this season, but Toronto Raptors All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard is not laughing.

Leonard praised how the Raptors have managed his health in his first season up north, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.

"We've been doing a great job of making sure that nothing flares up or gets out of control. It's just been great. I'm just happy that I'm able to play. ... It's amazing. I feel good and we have something to look forward to."

Leonard has played in just 49 games for Toronto this season but has made the most of his playing time, leading the team with 27 points per game. 

Leonard is coming off a season that saw him play only nine games for the San Antonio Spurs due to a lingering quad injury. The Spurs' handling of his injury was widely criticized, and Leonard sought help from outside medical personnel. At the time, then-Spurs point guard Tony Parker publicly said he had dealt with a similar injury that was "100 times worse" and took only eight months to rehab.

With the Raptors presumably intent on locking Leonard up long-term after his current contract expires, establishing a positive relationship regarding his health is paramount given the distrust Leonard felt toward the Spurs. Leonard isn't set to become an unrestricted free agent until 2020 but can exercise his player option following this season.

When active this season, the 27-year-old is averaging more minutes per game (34.3) than in any of his other eight seasons. In 2016-17, Leonard played in a career-high 74 games and averaged 33.4 minutes per game, preceding his disastrous 2017-18 campaign. The Raptors seem to be focused on efficiently maximizing Leonard's usage rate by balancing more minutes with fewer games. 

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Part of that plan has included restricting Leonard on back-to-backs throughout the regular season, and it has worked out well for the Raptors. With 14 games remaining in the regular season, Toronto (48-20) is three games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The two-time Defensive Player of the Year should be at his best for the Raptors' postseason run.