The Clippers reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history last season. If they want to return to that playoff round again, they will have to collectively replace the production of their best player.
Kawhi Leonard will be sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery in July to repair a partial ACL injury to his right knee. Leonard may be able to rejoin the rotation at some point during the 2021-22 season, but Paul George and Co. are expected to do the heavy lifting to get the new campaign started.
What is Leonard’s future? Here’s everything we know about his injury and the latest news on when he could be back on the pitch.
What is Kawhi Leonard’s injury?
Leonard sustained a right knee injury during Game 4 of the 2021 Western Conference Semifinals. The two-time NBA Finals MVP came limping after a drive to the basket against Jazz striker Joe Ingles. He ended up sitting in the last four-plus minutes of that match, but in his post-game interview with TNT’s Rebecca Haarlow, he said, “I’ll be good.”
Unfortunately for Leonard, the knee problem was more serious than he thought and ended what had been a spectacular run in the playoffs. The Clippers announced on July 13 that Leonard has undergone successful surgery to repair the partially torn ACL, adding that there is “no time for his return.”
In 52 games last season, Leonard averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals, earning him a spot on the All-NBA first team.
How long will Kawhi Leonard be out?
When asked about his recovery timing during the Clippers’ media day, Leonard did not offer a specific date, only telling reporters that he is “working with the staff on a day-to-day basis”.
“This is the challenge, to see how quickly I can improve and become stronger than I was when I am in good health,” said Leonard. “That’s where I basically turned my mindset.”
The 30-year-old added that signed a long-term agreement stay in Los Angeles in part because he wants to play this season.
“One thing, I wanted to make sure of the money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to do it this year,” Leonard said. “If I had taken the one and one [deal], I probably wouldn’t have played just to be cautious and would have given up and taken five years [deal]. But I’m here. I’m here to be a clipper. I will not go to another team unless something drastic happens. I’m here for the long haul. “
While it’s impossible to know exactly how long Leonard will be away, injury expert Jeff Stotts believes his recovery will extend into next year.
Re: Kawhi: Thomas Bryant and Spencer Dinwiddie have lost over 60 games each after undergoing Grade 2 ACL injury (partial rupture) surgery earlier this season. Dinwiddie was cleared for basketball activities ~ 6 months after surgery. Look for Kawhi’s recovery to carry over in the next year.
– Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) July 14, 2021
Kawhi Leonard’s career stats, highlights
- 19.2 points per game
- 6.4 rebounds per game
- 2.9 assists per game
- 0.6 blocks per game
- 1.8 stolen per game
- 1.6 turnovers per game
- 31.3 minutes per game
- 49.3 percent shooting
- 38.4 percent three-point shot
- 85.8 percent free throws