“It was big,” Leonard said in a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “When it got bad, we ended up taking, you know, four or five games off. And, you know, if we didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here right now.
“The way we laid out the schedule was good. I’m happy.”
When asked if the load-management plan really made that big of a difference, Leonard doubled down.
“For sure,” he said. “I don’t think I’d be playing right now if I would’ve tried to go through that season [without it].”
Leonard and the Raptors have steadfastly said throughout the Eastern Conference finals and the NBA Finals that he’s fine, despite him occasionally limping at times throughout each of the past several games. But while Leonard has continued to say if he’s able to play it means he isn’t injured, he admitted it is taking extra time for him to get ready to play each game.
“Just go out and play,” Leonard said. “But I mean, you know, it takes a lot of, you know, pregame effort now. I’m seeing medical, warming it up, and, you know, going from there. That’s the big thing about when you do get an injury. And you can’t just run on the floor after you’re in shootaround — pregame shots. Gotta go back and do something with somebody until game time.”
Meanwhile, the specter of his upcoming free agency looms over both Leonard and the Raptors. The possibility exists that, no matter what happens over the final few games of this series, that Leonard could go elsewhere — likely to the LA Clippers, if he does leave — as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
For his part, though, Leonard maintains that the only thing he is thinking about right now is what is in front of him: trying to win a second NBA title. The Raptors lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 entering Friday’s Game 4.
“Not now,” Leonard said. “I mean, obviously — you know what you want. But I’m not thinking, like — just because of this and this, I’m gonna re-sign.
“I’m not even thinking about signing or what team I’m gonna go to, free agency, none of that. I’m just focused on what’s in front of me right now. And then, you know, once it’s over, then I’ll revisit everything.”