But that could soon be a thing of the past.
Before Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, which Leonard sat out after scoring 37 points in 32 minutes Friday night in Toronto in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Leonard could begin playing both halves of back-to-backs starting next month.
“I think we are there,” Nurse said. “I think, after we get here to the new year, we’ll be there.
“No promises, but I think we’re there.”
Saturday night was the ninth time in 35 games Leonard has sat out. Five of those absences have come as part of what the team has deemed “load management” as he continues to recover from the left quad tendinopathy that kept him sidelined for all but nine games last season, when he was with the San Antonio Spurs. The other four came when Leonard suffered a pair of minor injuries that caused him to miss both halves of the team’s remaining two back-to-back sets so far this season.
Those injuries included a tweaked foot suffered in a win in Phoenix and a bruised hip suffered in a loss at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Toronto has five more back-to-backs this season, beginning Jan. 5 and 6, when the Raptors play in Milwaukee before returning to Toronto to face the Indiana Pacers.
It’s hard to argue with the results Toronto has generated from their plan with Leonard this season. He is back to playing like the elite talent he was before his injury issues, averaging 26.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals for the Raptors.
Toronto, meanwhile, entered Saturday night’s game with a league-leading 25-9 record.