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The last time Kawhi Leonard came off the bench, he was 21 years old. He was in his second season in the NBA, and it was his first game back in the lineup after missing about a month with quadriceps tendinitis. Before his return, he spent some time rehabbing with the San Antonio Spurs' G League affiliate, then called the Austin Toros. 

Leonard started the other 57 games in which he appeared that season. He even started most of his games as a rookie. If he ever comes off the bench again, it will feel unusual -- just ask Russell Westbrook

As it turns out, it will happen on Thursday night, as Tyronn Lue and the Los Angeles Clippers will use the two-time Finals MVP as a sixth man against the Los Angeles Lakers in the team's season opener. 

Before training camp, Clippers president Lawrence Frank emphasized that the Clippers would take a cautious approach to Leonard's return from a torn ACL. Load management is nothing new for Leonard, and if he's going to be on a strict minutes limit, this move makes it simpler for the coaching staff to manage the rotation and make sure he's available at the end of games. This is the same reason that the Golden State Warriors brought Stephen Curry off the bench at the beginning of the 2022 playoffs. 

During the Warriors' first-round series, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone called Curry "the greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs." This isn't the playoffs, but with Leonard out of the starting lineup for the Clippers' season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers, Curry has some competition for the title of Greatest Fake Sixth Man Ever.