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Leonard’s left foot in­jury doesn’t look se­ri­ous, but his sta­tus for tonight is up in the air ... Nurse needs a nurse for his throat ... Si­akam fight­ing hard to stay in start­ing lineup

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Kawhi Leonard LOS AN­GE­LES —

is not ex­actly back home, but it’s as close to home as he’s go­ing to get play­ing in the NBA.

The River­side na­tive — about an hour’s drive from down­town L.A. — though re­mains a bit of a ques­tion mark for Sun­day’s show­down with LeBron James and the Lak­ers.

Asked about the left foot he jammed on Fri­day in Phoenix, Leonard would only say it felt OK and he would see how it felt tomorrow. Asked if there was a sta­tus up­date, he replied in the neg­a­tive.

With Fri­day’s game well in hand and just over two min­utes left on the clock, Leonard erred on the side of cau­tion when he took him­self out of the game and into the locker room to get his sore left foot checked out.

He wasn’t a full par­tic­i­pant in prac­tice on Satur­day at UCLA, but felt he did what he needed to get done, but stopped short of mak­ing any dec­la­ra­tions about his abil­ity to play 24 hours later.

The ac­tual de­ci­sion about his play­ing sta­tus, if we go on his­tory, wasn’t go­ing to be made un­til af­ter his rep­re­sen­ta­tives, team man­age­ment and the team med­i­cal staff hashed things over any­way. That wasn’t ex­pected to hap­pen un­til later Satur­day af­ter­noon. Again, if we are go­ing on prece­dent, the me­dia and by ex­ten­sion the gen­eral pub­lic likely won’t know his sta­tus un­til game time with no shootaround planned for Sun­day.

Leonard, though, was in good spir­its Satur­day fol­low­ing prac­tice

Kyle Lowry en­joy­ing in­ter­rupt­ing his scrum to point out the ob­vi­ous ques­tions and even call­ing Leonard out when he sug­gested he didn’t know where he was go­ing to eat.

It was slightly rem­i­nis­cent of Lowry hound­ing the me­dia as they

DeMar DeRozan asked ques­tions in pre­vi­ous years. But where DeRozan would tell Lowry to back off and let him do his own talk­ing, Leonard just smiled and shook his head as his point guard in­serted him­self into the con­ver­sa­tion.

The like­li­hood is that Leonard is go­ing to miss one of the next two games as they will be played on back-to-back nights and the team still seems in­tent on eas­ing him back into full ac­tion. That, com­bined with the fact that the fi­nal game of this four-game trip sees the team re­turn from Utah to Cal­i­for­nia to take on the Sacra­mento Kings, would sug­gest the most likely game to skip would be the game Mon­day in Utah.

The in­jury scare though could scut­tle that plan.


Dwane For­mer head coach Casey

and his re­place­ment Nick Nurse

now have some­thing else in com­mon. Both have learned how easy it is to lose one’s voice coach­ing the Raptors.

Casey would an­nu­ally go through a pe­riod early in the sea­son where he was suck­ing on lozenges to soothe his throat while strug­gling to be heard by those within three feet of him. Nurse was start­ing to sound that way on Fri­day and by Satur­day had to turn the team prac­tice over to as­sis­tant Nate Bjork­gren with Nurse’s voice all but si­lenced.

Bjork­gren even filled in for his post-prac­tice du­ties with the me­dia at UCLA.

Based on what he saw at prac­tice Satur­day, Bjork­gren be­lieves Leonard will play but added that de­ci­sion would not be his nor had it been made.

But re­gard­less of whether Leonard plays Sun­day or not, Bjork­gren said the ap­proach to the game would not change.

“With our depth, the game­plan is the game­plan,” Bjork­gren said. “So guys are ready. When their num­ber is called, they’re ready to play. They do a great job. Our guys do a re­ally great job of pay­ing at­ten­tion to de­tails in prac­tice and in shootaround so if their name gets called, they’re ready.”


Fri­day’s game in Phoenix marked the first time all year that Nurse and his coach­ing staff had their full com­ple­ment of play­ers avail­able. As­sum­ing that is still the case and the knicks and knocks to in­di­vid­u­als

Danny like Leonard and Green

suf­fered Fri­day aren’t enough to keep them out of the lineup, the real de­ter­mi­na­tion of how to best uti­lize all this tal­ent re­ally be­gan with that game. Nurse and his staff have to fig­ure

Pas­cal Si­akam out if keep­ing with the starters max­i­mizes his ef­fec­tive­ness. They have to de­ter­mine who and in what or­der the bench unit is un­veiled in a game and which of a hand­ful of eight or nine play­ers are best suited to fin­ish­ing games.

Nurse is still very much in the process of put­ting that all to­gether and he’s fine with that.

“I would have thought that nat­u­rally (Si­akam) would have went back with that sec­ond unit

Delon when we got healthy with (Wright) Fred (VanVleet),

and C.J. (Miles) Jakob

and Pas­cal and (Poeltl)

is the only guy miss­ing there from last year, right?

“But to me it looks like he now looks pretty com­fort­able with that first unit,” Nurse said be­fore Fri­day’s game. “He’s do­ing the ma­jor­ity of the re­bound­ing and get­ting them out and when he brings it and touches the paint, he’s kick­ing out to Kawhi, Kyle or Danny (Green), which is three pretty good op­tions. He looks good in both of them right now.”

Then there’s the fin­ish­ing group which Nurse sounds no closer to ce­ment­ing if in fact that is his goal. The ques­tion Fri­day was who would be a more likely fit

OG Anunoby there, or Si­akam.

“I still kind of see OG as the starter,” Nurse said. “He’s just had such a … you know, he hasn’t been with us much here. He missed al­most all of train­ing camp and played a cou­ple of games and then missed a cou­ple more. I think even­tu­ally, with his de­fence and perime­ter shoot­ing, he prob­a­bly ends up in our clos­ing lineup and then prob­a­bly works his way back into the start­ing lineup, too.”

But if OG is in the closer’s group, then does that nec­es­sar­ily mean Si­akam isn’t? Not nec­es­sar­ily ac­cord­ing to Nurse.

“I would only base that prob­a­bly on our abil­ity to be re­ally, re­ally nasty on the de­fen­sive end with him out there,” Nurse said of OG. “Not that Pas­cal’s not ei­ther, maybe all of them will be out there. Maybe Pas­cal, OG, Kawhi, all three of them, who knows.”

At least a pe­riod of sus­tained health will help bring that pic­ture into clearer fo­cus.


VanVleet re­turned to ac­tion on Fri­day hav­ing missed four games and de­spite sore­ness was key in help­ing the bench to its most im­pact­ful night of the year. Nine con­sec­u­tive stops in the third quar­ter by the bench helped salt the game away for good. But VanVleet read­ily ad­mit­ted af­ter the game he’s not close to 100% and won’t be for some time. He’s deal­ing with turf toe for the first time in his ca­reer and that toe was bark­ing pretty loud af­ter the game. VanVleet, though, says it’s just some­thing he will play through ... With VanVleet out four games and Wright hav­ing missed five, the two have yet to play to­gether. Fri­day marked their first time in the lineup to­gether and Wright was lim­ited to 6:42 with VanVleet play­ing just over 20 min­utes out­side of that 6:42 win­dow. That com­bi­na­tion was piv­otal in the Raptors suc­cess a year ago and the team hasn’t even got to it yet. “Ob­vi­ously, they’re healthy enough to play but I don’t think they’re 100%, espe­cially with wind, you take a week off, your con­di­tion­ing goes away,” Green said. “So Fred is gonna get his wind back and Delon’s gonna get his wind back and get back.

Raptors for­ward Kawhi Leonard blocks the shot of Suns guard Isa­iah Canaan on Fri­day. Leonard is nurs­ing a sore an­kle.

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