Leonard’s status for game against Lakers is uncertain

LOS ANGELES — Kawhi Leonard is not exactly back home, but it’s as close to home as he’s going to get playing in the NBA.

The Riverside native — about an hour’s drive from downtown L.A. — though remains a bit of a question mark for Sunday’s showdown with LeBron James and the Lakers.

Asked about the left foot he jammed on Friday in Phoenix, Leonard would only say it felt OK and he would see how it felt tomorrow. Asked if there was a status update, he replied in the negative.

With Friday’s game well in hand and just over two minutes left on the clock, Leonard erred on the side of caution when he took himself out of the game and into the locker room to get his sore left foot checked out.

He wasn’t a full participant in practice on Saturday at UCLA, but felt he did what he needed to get done, but stopped short of making any declarations about his ability to play 24 hours later.

The actual decision about his playing status, if we go on history, wasn’t going to be made until after his representatives, team management and the team medical staff hashed things over anyway. That wasn’t expected to happen until later Saturday afternoon. Again, if we are going on precedent, the media and by extension the general public likely won’t know his status until game time with no shootaround planned for Sunday.

Leonard, though, was in good spirits Saturday following practice enjoying Kyle Lowry interrupting his scrum to point out the obvious questions and even calling Leonard out when he suggested he didn’t know where he was going to eat.

It was slightly reminiscent of Lowry hounding the media as they asked DeMar DeRozan questions in previous years. But where DeRozan would tell Lowry to back off and let him do his own talking, Leonard just smiled and shook his head as his point guard inserted himself into the conversation.

The likelihood is that Leonard is going to miss one of the next two games as they will be played on back-to-back nights and the team still seems intent on easing him back into full action. That, combined with the fact that the final game of this four-game trip sees the team return from Utah to California to take on the Sacramento Kings, would suggest the most likely game to skip would be the game Monday in Utah.

The injury scare though could scuttle that plan.

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SOMETHING IN COMMON

Former head coach Dwane Casey and his replacement Nick Nurse now have something else in common. Both have learned how easy it is to lose one’s voice coaching the Raptors.

Casey would annually go through a period early in the season where he was sucking on lozenges to soothe his throat while struggling to be heard by those within three feet of him. Nurse was starting to sound that way on Friday and by Saturday had to turn the team practice over to assistant Nate Bjorkgren with Nurse’s voice all but silenced.

Bjorkgren even filled in for his post-practice duties with the media at UCLA.

Based on what he saw at practice Saturday, Bjorkgren believes Leonard will play but added that decision would not be his nor had it been made.

But regardless of whether Leonard plays Sunday or not, Bjorkgren said the approach to the game would not change.

“With our depth, the gameplan is the gameplan,” Bjorkgren said. “So guys are ready. When their number is called, they’re ready to play. They do a great job. Our guys do a really great job of paying attention to details in practice and in shootaround so if their name gets called, they’re ready.”

HEALTH MEANS DECISIONS

Friday’s game in Phoenix marked the first time all year that Nurse and his coaching staff had their full complement of players available. Assuming that is still the case and the knicks and knocks to individuals like Leonard and Danny Green suffered Friday aren’t enough to keep them out of the lineup, the real determination of how to best utilize all this talent really began with that game.

Nurse and his staff have to figure out if keeping Pascal Siakam with the starters maximizes his effectiveness. They have to determine who and in what order the bench unit is unveiled in a game and which of a handful of eight or nine players are best suited to finishing games.

Nurse is still very much in the process of putting that all together and he’s fine with that.

“I would have thought that naturally (Siakam) would have went back with that second unit when we got healthy with Delon (Wright) and Fred (VanVleet), C.J. (Miles) and Pascal and Jakob (Poeltl) is the only guy missing there from last year, right?

“But to me it looks like he now looks pretty comfortable with that first unit,” Nurse said before Friday’s game. “He’s doing the majority of the rebounding and getting them out and when he brings it and touches the paint, he’s kicking out to Kawhi, Kyle or Danny (Green), which is three pretty good options. He looks good in both of them right now.”

Then there’s the finishing group which Nurse sounds no closer to cementing if in fact that is his goal. The question Friday was who would be a more likely fit there, OG Anunoby or Siakam.

“I still kind of see OG as the starter,” Nurse said. “He’s just had such a … you know, he hasn’t been with us much here. He missed almost all of training camp and played a couple of games and then missed a couple more. I think eventually, with his defence and perimeter shooting, he probably ends up in our closing lineup and then probably works his way back into the starting lineup, too.”
But if OG is in the closer’s group, then does that necessarily mean Siakam isn’t? Not necessarily according to Nurse.

“I would only base that probably on our ability to be really, really nasty on the defensive end with him out there,” Nurse said of OG. “Not that Pascal’s not either, maybe all of them will be out there. Maybe Pascal, OG, Kawhi, all three of them, who knows.”

At least a period of sustained health will help bring that picture into clearer focus.

QUICK HITS
VanVleet returned to action on Friday having missed four games and despite soreness was key in helping the bench to its most impactful night of the year. Nine consecutive stops in the third quarter by the bench helped salt the game away for good. But VanVleet readily admitted after the game he’s not close to 100% and won’t be for some time. He’s dealing with turf toe for the first time in his career and that toe was barking pretty loud after the game. VanVleet, though, says it’s just something he will play through … With VanVleet out four games and Wright having missed five, the two have yet to play together. Friday marked their first time in the lineup together and Wright was limited to 6:42 with VanVleet playing just over 20 minutes outside of that 6:42 window. That combination was pivotal in the Raptors success a year ago and the team hasn’t even got to it yet. “Obviously, they’re healthy enough to play but I don’t think they’re 100%, especially with wind, you take a week off, your conditioning goes away,” Green said. “So Fred is gonna get his wind back and Delon’s gonna get his wind back and get back.

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies