Raptors coach Nick Nurse: Kawhi could soon start playing back-to-backs

SI's NBA insider Chris Mannix joins the Starting Lineup to explain his interesting theory on how the Raptors are being smart about selling Kawhi Leonard on the franchise and the city of Toronto.

Kawhi Leonard has done plenty in his first several months with the Toronto Raptors. He’s fifth in league scoring, a legitimate MVP candidate, and has helped turn the Raptors into the favourites to emerge from the Eastern Conference.

One thing he hasn’t done yet, however, is play on back-to-back nights. It’s something head coach Nick Nurse says could soon change.

“I think we’re there but I don’t know if we’re going to do it or not,” Nurse said during a Wednesday appearance on Prime Time Sports.

Leonard only suited up in nine games with the San Antonio Spurs one season ago, in large part due to injury concerns, so the Raptors decided collectively to be cautious with Leonard in the early part of the season.

Nurse said they considered playing Leonard on back-to-back nights in mid-Decmber against the Warriors and Clippers but it didn’t work out.

“After every game we get Alex McKechnie, our head of sports science, and team doctors and Kawhi and they just kind of look and see how he feels and make the determination,” Nurse explained. “I think yeah if he said, ‘I feel great. I’m ready to go tomorrow again. Let’s do it,’ we probably are all the way there.”

Nurse added that the consensus opinion of McKechnie, doctors and Leonrad has been “let’s not do it yet.”

Leonard is averaging 27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.9 blocks per game, so the extra rest hasn’t appeared to hinder his performance.

The Raptors have four more sets of back-to-back games remaining on their schedule: Jan. 16-17, Jan. 22-23, March 10-11 and March 17-18.

Winners of five of their past six, the Raptors boast an NBA-best 31-12 record as they prepare for a Friday home contest against the Brooklyn Nets.

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