PHOENIX – As the Toronto Raptors continue their hot start to the 2018-19 NBA season, they are staring forward with Kawhi Leonard.
Nick Nurse said after Toronto's 107-98 Victory over Phoenix on Friday night that pattern would continue indefinitely, including in the upcoming back-to-back Sunday in Los Angeles against the Lakers, and Monday in Utah against the Jazz.
"The plan is for a little while here to not let him play [both halves of] the back-to-backs, "Nurse said." I do not think we've got that long that's gonna be yet. We're going game by game. "
Nurse said Leonard is not dealing with any lingering issues in his right quadriceps, which caused him to miss all but nine games for the San Antonio Spurs last season and helped precipitate his to the Toronto during the summer.
But with Toronto currently sporting the Eastern Conference's best record and having designs on a deep postseason run, the plan to be as cautious as possible in easing Leonard back into regular action.
And, for his part, Leonard said he's on board with the Raptors are handling him.
"I just wanted to get healthy," said Leonard, who scored Toronto's record to 8-1 this season. It's a long season, so we're thinking about the long road. "
Leonard would sit out, especially after Leonard missed the final 2 minutes, 42 seconds of Friday's win after jamming his left foot.
Nurse and Leonard, however, downplayed the severity of the injury.
"Hey jammed his foot," Nurse said. But it's not an ankle, or anything. "It's a jammed foot."
Said Leonard: "I just pushed off on it. Kind of rolled it, just pushing it off. Just wanted to take a good look at it."
So far, the plan to work Leonard back into the mix after his time away has gone as well as possible for both him personally, and the Raptors as a whole. Leonard has been looking like he has been in trouble for the past two weeks, he has been in trouble for a while, averaging 26.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting 50.4 percent overall and 44.8 percent from 3-point range. The Raptors, meanwhile, have the best record in the Eastern Conference, and have gone 7-0 in games Leonard has suited up this season. Toronto's lone loss came Monday, when both Leonard and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out of a 124-109 Bucks victory.
Given Leonard's impending free agency, and the Lakers have paired him with LeBron's James next summer, Leonard is always going to be given plenty of attention.
But Leonard said there would be a discussion Saturday in Los Angeles, where the Raptors wants to practice.
"We'll see how it goes," Leonard said. "We'll talk [Saturday] and try to figure it out. "