Kawhi Leonard would be in “phenomenal shape” if the NBA season resumes, according to Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.
The NBA was suspended on March 11 amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed at least 88,200 lives globally.
It remains to be seen when and if the 2019-20 season will restart amid the coronavirus crisis, with commissioner Adam Silver saying the league will not be able to make any decisions regarding the campaign until at least May.
Clippers superstar Leonard – who moved to Los Angeles in the offseason after leading the Toronto Raptors to the title last season – has been the subject of load management this term to deal with a knee problem.
But Rivers told reporters on Wednesday: “I know Kawhi’s overworking, I can guarantee you that. And the difference is, during the summer, Kawhi couldn’t work, you know, so now he’s got this break and he’s able to train.
“So the Kawhi we’ll see will be in phenomenal shape. PG [Paul George] is another guy that’s gonna be in phenomenal shape.”
“If this gets started, you can tell our players are invested in the season,” Rivers said. “And they don’t want this season to go away. And they’re working like it is not going to go away.”
The Clippers (44-20) had won seven of their last eight games to be second in the Western Conference, behind city rivals the Los Angeles Lakers (49-14), before the NBA was shut down.
Various options are being discussed, including playing behind closed doors and the season heading straight into the playoffs if the campaign resumes.
“If it means we get to play and continue our pursuit for the goal that we want, I feel like Dr. Seuss: ‘I will play anywhere. I will play in a house, I will play in a mouse,'” Rivers said. “I think that’s how our team feels. We don’t care where, when, why, what. We just want to go after our goal. I’m speaking by myself on that.”
On the Clippers’ season up until the postponement, Rivers added: “We’re really good. What I know for real was the last 10 games, we were turning into the Clippers. You could literally feel it… We started understanding each other… we were playing seamlessly through Kawhi and PG — it wasn’t forced anymore. Guys weren’t trying to stay out of each other’s way.
“You could feel the rhythm. Even the Lakers loss [on March 8] where we, in my opinion, played horrendous in that game, and that was one of our step-back games… we still had a chance and it was our D game, you know?”
“I really thought we were about to make a crazy run down the stretch. And unfortunately, bam, it stopped. … I love where we were at. And seeing the way we play and how we were coming together, this team’s good, I think we could beat anybody.”