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NBA HQ: Kawhi Leonard out not for rest vs. Bucks, not healthy enough to play back-to-backs

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Welcome to the details of “load management” — a world of medical decisions based on prevention, combined with squishy semantics.

Kawhi Leonard will not play for the Clippers Wednesday night in a nationally televised game against the Bucks but will suit up Thursday night — in another nationally televised game — against the Trail Blazers.

The official reason for this: “Load management, knee.”

While NBA fans (and media) have come to consider the term “load management” as something tied to rest, in this case, I was told by an official from the league office that there is a determination Leonard’s knee meets the medical criteria for him to sit out back-to-back games. That determination first comes from the Clippers — who certainly have Leonard on a load management plan to keep him healthy for the playoffs, as the Raptors did a season ago — but is confirmed by the league.

If Leonard were considered healthy he would not be allowed to rest during a nationally televised game, the source said.

Later, league spokesman Mike Bass of ESPN gave Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN an official statement on this.

“Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league’s resting policy, and, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the LA Clippers injury report. The league office, in consultation with the NBA’s director of sports medicine, is comfortable with team medical staff’s determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time.”

If this all feels a bit nebulous and an argument over semantics welcome to the club.

Even this early in the season, if a team wants to rest any player there likely is enough of an injury in some form to medically justify him sitting out. Professional athletes are always playing through something, so it’s not hard to get to a medical decision requiring a night off, and teams take advantage of it. Those teams (the Clippers in this case) are not necessarily transparent about what is happening.

In Leonard’s case, there is the quadricep tendon issue in one leg (which started in and led to his exit from San Antonio), which during the playoffs last season had him compensating and causing pain in his other knee. The concern by the Clippers is legitimate, even if what is happening Wednesday night is realistically more preventative.

Also, the Clipper watched Leonard play 60 games last season then be the Finals MVP and lead the Raptors to a ring. They know exactly what they are doing and why, and they will come up for reasons to meet the league’s criteria.

Moe Harkless says no buyout with Knicks: “I’ll be here the rest of the year”

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Moe Harkless went from a guy often starting and playing critical minutes for a contender in the Clippers to being the matching salary in a trade and finding himself on the woeful Knicks.

“It is definitely an adjustment with the way things are,” Harkless told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Everything is different, the culture and everything.”

If there was a player nobody would blame for wanting a buyout and the chance to get back to a team playing for something, it would be Harkless.

That’s not happening. Multiple reports have surfaced that he is not talking buyout with New York running up to the March 1 deadline. The latest comes from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Then Harkless was even more direct speaking to Bondy.

“I’ll be here the rest of the year,” he said.

Harkless has fans in NBA front offices, with the Lakers rumored to be among them (although they are about to land Markieff Morris in a similar role). Harkless could play good defensive minutes on the wing down the stretch for a team, buying rest for key guys, plus in the playoffs he could be advantageous in certain matchups.

Morris and the Knicks have time to change their minds, but it sounds like he will play out the season in New York then be a free agent next summer.

Lakers reportedly will waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear roster spot

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If the Lakers are going to add Markieff Morrisas has been rumored — or anyone else via free agency, they are going to need to clear out a roster spot.

That has the Lakers looking to waive DeMarcus Cousins, a report broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Cousins signed with the Lakers over the summer but never set foot on the court with them after tearing his ACL during summer workouts (which led to a scramble and L.A.’s fortuitous signing of Dwight Howard). He was around the team and rehabbing, and while they would never officially rule him out, Cousins was never expected to play.

He was not waived before because his $3.5 million salary might have been useful in a trade. When that didn’t materialize at the deadline it, became likely he could get waived.

It’s highly unlikely a team picks up Cousins this season, while he continues to rehab from his injury. However, it might be a good roll of the dice this summer by a team to sign him to a minimum contract for next season. Cousins still has some NBA basketball in him, if he can just stay healthy.

Karl-Anthony Towns has fractured wrist, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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Karl-Anthony Towns was a surprise scratch from the Timberwolves last game before the All-Star break, a “left wrist injury” delaying the home debut of him with D'Angelo Russell (they did play a road game together in Toronto). Then came the rumors he could miss a few games when play started up again.

It’s going to be more than a few games, more than a few weeks.

Towns has a fractured left wrist, the team announced Friday. He is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. From the team press release:

“While Towns has been diligent in treatment with a goal of return to play, he has been assessed by multiple specialists over the last several days and the team continues to gather information on the optimal management strategies.”

Towns had been playing through wrist pain for a couple of weeks before this diagnosis.

Towns is having a career year on offense, averaging  26.5 points a game while shooting 41 percent from three (on 7.9 attempts per game), plus grabbing 10.8 rebounds a night. That has not translated into wins for Minnesota, however.

Towns being out doesn’t hurt the Timberwolves in the short term, they have fallen far out of the playoff chase in the West. However, this cuts into time Towns and Russell could have used to grow accustomed to each other’s games. It’s time lost for the coaching staff and front office as they evaluate the fit of players they have around Towns and Russell.

Lakers vs. Clippers game rescheduled for April 9, forces Lakers into back-to-back-to-back

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It was the right thing to do when the league, in consultation with the Lakers and Clippers, postponed the game between the two teams on Jan. 28, just two days after Kobe Bryant’s tragic death.

However, it left the league in a difficult spot — it was not going to be easy to find a place to put that game. Both teams have full schedules, plus the Staples Center is also home to the NHL’s Kings plus other booked concerts and events.

The found a spot: The game will be played on April 9 at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT, and will be broadcast on TNT.

But to do that three other games had to be moved, and in doing so it has the Lakers playing in a back-to-back-to-back (something only seen in recent decades during the 66-game lockout season of 2011-12).

The other games moved are:

• The Chicago Bulls at Clippers game initially scheduled for April 8 will be played on April 6 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT (moving from Wednesday to Monday).
• The Golden State Warriors at Lakers game originally scheduled for April 9 will be played on April 7 at 10 p.m. ET/7 PT (moving from Thursday to Tuesday) and will remain televised on TNT.
• The Bulls at Lakers game originally scheduled for April 7 will be played on April 8 at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 PT (moving from Tuesday to Wednesday).

Meaning the Lakers host the Warriors Tuesday, the Bulls Wednesday, then are “at” the Clippers on Thursday.

The Clippers are now scheduled to play Monday (Bulls), Tuesday (at Jazz), and Thursday that week.

It’s not an ideal situation, but the league made the right move at the time. This is the price.