Toronto Raptors: How Will Leg Injury Affect Kawhi Leonard Going Forward?

Music icon, Kanye West, famously rapped on his smash hit record, “Power”, from his classic album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, “No one man should have all that power”. Well, up north, in Toronto, Canada, their professional basketball team’s superstar player, Kawhi Leonard, has the entire country of Canada uneasy about his leg injury. Kawhi finished with 36 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, in the Toronto Raptors double overtime victory against the Milwaukee Bucks at home in the Scotiabank Arena. This despite suffering his leg injury in the 1st quarter of the game. Kawhi demonstrated incredible mental toughness. Considering he scored Toronto’s final three field goals and 8 of their last 10 points in their double-overtime triumph. With the season in balance, players, coaches, and fans all wonder how Kawhi’s leg injury will affect him going forward.

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What do you do when you walk thru hell? You keep walking!! That is exactly what Kawhi Leonard is doing, knowing that if there is any slippage in his productivity, the Toronto Raptors season is over. Will Kawhi ever verbalize that? No! Kawhi is the master of minimalism when it comes to sharing his thoughts publicly. Which is a stark contrast to his explosive play on the basketball court. For instance, following Game 3’s win against the Milwaukee Bucks 118-112 in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals, when a reporter asked Kawhi post-game about how he feels since suffering what appeared to be an injury, Kawhi said “good”.

At this moment, the only conscious thoughts occupying Kawhi’s mind are: what do I need to do to get prepared until game time, in order to help my team advance to the NBA Finals. Also, what movements can I execute with minimal to no pain? If there’s discomfort dribbling the ball up the court, Kawhi will limit his usage and delegate more of that responsibility to Toronto Raptor’s point guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.

If Kawhi experiences an overwhelming level of uneasiness penetrating to the basket while absorbing contact, then he will concentrate more on taking pull up jump shots around the free throw areas. Plus he may become apt to take more 3 point shots. Here’s a healthy fun fact-when you are injured in basketball, the offensive side of the ball is greatly more manageable for a player than playing defensively. Why? Simply, on offense, you as the player determine when and where you would like to go. Plus at what rate of speed.

Yet, defensively, you as the player are at the mercy of the offensive player. You are accountable to react to the abrupt change of directions/speeds and the sudden physicality of the offensive player you are obligated to guard. The Milwaukee Bucks have the quintessential offensive nightmare in their NBA’s MVP finalist candidate 6’11, power forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo. However difficult you think spelling or pronouncing his name, guarding him is twice as challenging. Nonetheless, defending Antetokounmpo is an assignment Kawhi not only accepted but also played an integral role in. Leonard limited Antetokounmpo to shooting an unimpressive 5-16 from the field and a mere 12 points.

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As a former professional athlete, I can identify effortlessly- Kawhi eats, sleeps, and drinks the game of basketball. With that said, when Kawhi steps on the basketball court, it represents a safe haven. It is a place of serenity, which allows him for those 3 hours to think exclusively about basketball. The game he unequivocally loves. In return, he accepts an injury may occur and has promised himself he will persevere. He accepts the countless number of people who have never sacrificed or reached the rarefied air of greatness he holds. Something only a minute amount will understand. He accepts the veterans on his team, whose commitment level is mediocre and forces him to carry a heavier load. He accepts, although his younger teammates have not developed efficient skill sets to consistently hit shots, he still encourage them to shoot.

Finally, the biggest acceptance is that Kawhi knows if he is not well or does not play at all, his team will lose. So, who knows how hurt Kawhi truly is or if we can believe the narrative that he is not injured. “No one man should have all that power”. Well, there are always exceptions to the rule.  This time maybe it is fine Kawhi has that much power. He has demonstrated that he will not keep it, but will empower the others whose powers are less than his.

How do you feel about Kawhi Leonard‘s leg injury? Leave a comment below.

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Follow Jamal on Twitter @Jamalburke9.

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