The NBA's most notorious practitioners of load management might be reconsidering their approach to the regular season.
Following the Los Angeles Clippers' elimination from the NBA playoffs, team president Lawrence Frank conceded to reporters that the team needs to prioritize the regular season after years of focusing on limiting playing time to try to be ready for the postseason.
"Injuries suck. They suck, but they happen. For Kawhi and PG, for everything they put into their bodies to be healthy at this time, to be injured, it's devastating for them. They're agonized. It's painful. I feel for our fans who have been there every step of the way and for [Clippers owner Steve Ballmer], who's given us all the resources to try to achieve our goal each and every year, which is to win a championship.
"So that's hard. And yet at the same time, when you take a step back, what I don't want to do is have the injuries or how hard we fought in the postseason to mask a disappointing regular season. We have to be honest with ourselves, and we have to look in the mirror. It starts with me. And we have to get back to honoring and respecting the regular season."
The Clippers lost their first-round series in five games to the Phoenix Suns, with star Kawhi Leonard missing the final three games with what turned out to be a torn meniscus and co-star Paul George missing the entire series due to a sprained knee.
No one should be doubting the legitimacy of those injuries, but the fact that they happened raised some uncomfortable questions about the effectiveness of load management. Leonard, already known for limiting his playing time on back-to-backs, was playing in his first season back from an ACL tear in the 2021 playoffs and never played in more than six consecutive games this year.
The Clippers are known for valuing data, and the data on their ability to avoid injuries in the playoffs hasn't been good despite load management. Leonard has now finished two postseasons with serious knee injuries, while George hasn't played a postseason game since 2021.
Meanwhile, the team has seen diminishing returns in the regular season, having finished this season fifth in the West at 44-38. Their combination of injuries and load management resulted in Leonard and George playing only 995 minutes together in 38 games this season.
Forgoing load management probably wouldn't help Leonard and George stay on the floor, but at this point the team clearly has good reason to wonder how much it has actually helped.