Already handed a back-to-back set just two games into the season, the LA Clippers had a decision to make on how they would manage Kawhi Leonard and John Wall. Neither player is currently cleared by the team to play both games in a back-to-back set, leaving the only question to be which of the two games the duo would play. On Friday evening, the team announced that both Leonard and Wall would miss Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.
With Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns being the home opener, the Clippers decided it made the most sense to have Leonard and Wall play in that game as opposed to Saturday’s road matchup vs. the Kings. Phoenix is the superior opponent, and both players would likely prefer to be available for the home opener.
Ty Lue has consistently and adamantly reiterated throughout training camp that even if Leonard and Wall want to play more than they’re medically cleared to play, the team has to be smart and make the right decision for their health. That is what they’re doing on this upcoming back-to-back, and the way they’re doing it is the most logical approach.
The Clippers are playing the long game
While each game counts in the 82-game grind, there is a bigger picture to look at in October than the game that’s next on the schedule. For the Clippers, that bigger picture involves a healthy Kawhi Leonard and John Wall come playoff time.
Leonard’s situation is different from Wall’s as he is coming off an ACL injury, while Wall is coming off a season he was a healthy scratch all year. Because of this, there is more of an itch from Wall to play beyond the minutes the team currently has for him, as opposed to Leonard who has no interest in jeopardizing his health.
Because of this, it will probably be Wall who sees his minutes ramped up faster than Leonard, and perhaps even plays in both games of back-to-backs at some point this year. For Leonard, who is currently coming off the bench to maximize his minutes, it would be surprising if he played in both games of any back-to-backs this year.
Arguably the depeest team in the league, this is why the Clippers have no interest in making a consolodation trade to free up minutes for their depth. With players like Wall and Leonard expected to be limited for much of the season, the team will be reliant on their depth to win regular season games like Saturday’s against the Kings.
This should allow the Clippers to still achieve optimal seeding in the Western Conference while preserving the health of their top talent, which is the ideal outcome entering the playoffs.