21-year-old Kawhi Leonard last came off the bench. After a month off with quadriceps tendonitis, he played his first game in his second NBA season. He rehabbed with the Austin Toros, the San Antonio Spurs G League club.
Leonard started the other 57 games that season. He created most rookie games. Ask Russell Westbrook about coming off the bench again.
In the Clippers’ season opener against the Lakers on Thursday, Tyronn Lue will employ the two-time Finals MVP as a sixth man.
The Clippers will take it slow with Leonard’s comeback from an ACL tear, as president Lawrence Frank stressed before training camp. Leonard is no stranger to load management, and if he is going to be on a tight minutes restriction, this change makes it easier for the coaching staff to manage the rotation and make sure he is available after games. For the same rationale, the 2022 NBA playoffs saw Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors debut off the bench.
After being dubbed “the greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs” by Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone during Game 1 of the Warriors’ first-round series, Stephen Curry now has competition for the title of Greatest Fake Sixth Man Ever, as Kawhi Leonard will not be starting for the Clippers in their season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.