“The race in the Western Conference is extremely tight. I don’t know if we can afford to Kawhi it, so to speak,” McCollum said, according to an Oregonian story published Friday. “You’ll Kawhi your way out of the playoffs.”
Leonard has said his health and playing time will be managed differently this season, as he is not coming off a quad injury that kept him out most of the 2017-18 season.
But limiting a star’s number of games or minutes has been an ongoing topic throughout the NBA. A number of teams have addressed how they’ll use their top players once the regular season begins at the end of the month.
Even so, All-Star guard Damian Lillard echoed his teammate in regard to the Trail Blazers’ mindset.
“We’re not some big superteam,” Lillard said. “So I don’t think we have the luxury to sit out, especially with how competitive the West is going to be.”
Lillard, who played in 80 regular-season games in 2018-19, acknowledged feeling fatigued last season as the Trail Blazers reached the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2000.
“We hadn’t been that far and my body was tired,” Lillard said. “I was fatigued to the point where it was a real challenge. How I manage myself leading up to that point is going to mean everything.”
Coach Terry Stotts said he will do more to help his players recover on off-days rather than holding them out of games.
“I don’t necessarily want to have a herd mentality,” Stotts said. “You do what’s in the best interest of your team and the player. And you don’t want to overuse them, but you also have to appreciate the fact that if a guy is able to play 35 minutes a game and play 82 games, that’s fine too.”