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Kawhi hits out at NBA's new Player Participation Policy

Kawhi Leonard RJ Barrett Los Angeles Clippers New York Knicks Kawhi Leonard RJ Barrett - The Canadian Press

If the NBA's new Player Participation Policy is meant to get Kawhi Leonard to play more games, the Los Angeles Clippers star isn't buying it.

The 32-year-old Leonard says he only sits out games because he is genuinely injured and for no other reason.

Since missing all but nine games of the 2017-2018 season, his final year with the San Antonio Spurs, due to a nagging quad injury, Leonard has played in 181 games over five seasons and missed the entirety of the 2021-2022 campaign with an ACL tear. Famously, Leonard appeared in only 60 regular-season games in 2018-2019 for the Toronto Raptors with "load management" the term given for the extra rest afforded to him as the team went on to win the NBA championship that summer.

Speaking at Clippers media day, Leonard hit back at the idea that he sits out of games for no good reason.

"If the league is trying to...mock what I did with the Raptors, they should stop because I was injured during that whole year," Leonard said. "Other than that, if I'm able to play, I'll play basketball. I work out every day in the summertime to play the game, not to sit and watch people play. No league policy is helping me to play more games."

According to the NBA's new policy set to be implemented this season, "star players" - that is, players who have been named to an All-Star or All-NBA team in the previous three seasons - cannot miss nationally televised or play-in games or be "shut down" without valid reason. Teams must also manage their rosters to ensure that no more than one star player is unavailable for a particular game a balance must be maintained between home and road games for a star player's one-game absence. But the policy does have exceptions for injury, personal reasons and career workload.

Leonard appeared in 52 games for the Clippers last season. He averaged 23.8 points on .512 shooting, 6.5 boards and 3.9 assists over 33.6 minutes a night.