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Rick Zamperin: NBA sides with Kawhi Leonard, but can they continue to do so?

Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard looks at the scoreboard during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game Golden State Warriors on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in San Francisco.
Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard looks at the scoreboard during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game Golden State Warriors on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in San Francisco. AP Photo/Ben Margot

Does the NBA have a problem with so-called load management?

The phrase gained popularity when superstar Kawhi Leonard played just 60 of 82 regular-season games for the Toronto Raptors last season.

Leonard, who lead the Raptors to their first NBA championship just a few months ago, appears to be at it again.

He sat out Wednesday night’s nationally televised game against Giannis Antetokuonmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks with a knee injury.

READ MORE: Kawhi Leonard given hero’s welcome in return to Canada as Clippers fall to Mavs in Vancouver

The decision created a firestorm on social media, but the league sided with Leonard and the Clippers, saying that Kawhi is not healthy enough to suit up in back-to-back games.

The Clippers host the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday night and Leonard, who signed a 3-year, $103-million contract with L.A. over the summer, is expected to hit the floor for that game.

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Leonard has sat out one other game so far this season, on Oct. 30 versus the Utah Jazz — another nationally televised game — and played the following night against the San Antonio Spurs.

The NBA adopted a new rule, starting in the 2017-18 season, that prohibits teams “from resting healthy players for any high-profile, nationally televised game” and violators would be fined $100,000.

After watching how dominating a well-rested Leonard was in the playoffs last season, how can you blame the Clippers for wanting to take the same, cautious approach with Leonard?

Up close and personal with the Toronto Raptors Championship Ring
Up close and personal with the Toronto Raptors Championship Ring

But when the league’s best players are resting during nationally televised games, that hurts the NBA from an exposure and credibility standpoint.

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Forcing an injured player to play isn’t the right answer, either.

One thing is for certain: the NBA is between a rock and a hard place.