The Clippers reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history last season. If they want to make it back 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 tear of the ACL in his right knee. Leonard may be able to rejoin the rotation at some point during the 2021-22 season, but Paul George and Co. will be expected to do the heavy lifting to start the new campaign.
What’s next for Leonard? Here’s everything we know about his injury and the latest news on when he may return to the court.
What is Kawhi Leonard’s injury?
Leonard suffered a right knee injury during Game 4 of the 2021 Western Conference semifinals. The two-time NBA Finals MVP came up limping after a drive toward the basket against Jazz forward Joe Ingles. He ended up sitting the last four-plus minutes of that contest, but in his postgame interview with TNT’s Rebecca Haarlow, he said, “I’ll be good.”
Unfortunately for Leonard, the knee issue was more serious than he thought and ended what had been a spectacular playoff run. The Clippers announced on July 13 that Leonard underwent successful surgery to repair the partially torn ACL, adding that there is “no timetable for his return.”
In 52 games last season, Leonard averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals, earning a spot on the All-NBA First Team.
How long will Kawhi Leonard be out?
When asked about his recovery timeline at the Clippers’ media day, Leonard didn’t offer a specific date, only telling reporters that he is “working with the staff day to day.”
“That’s the challenge of it, just seeing how quickly I can get better and stronger I can get than what I was when I’m healthy,” Leonard said. “That’s where I pretty much turn my mindset to.”
The 30-year-old added that he signed a long-term deal to stay in Los Angeles in part because he wants to play this season.
“One thing, I wanted to secure some money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year,” Leonard said. “If I would’ve took the one-and-one [deal], I probably would have not played just to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year [deal]. But I’m here. I’m here to be a Clipper. I’m not going to another team unless something drastic happens. I’m here for the long run.”
While it is impossible to know exactly how much time Leonard will miss, injury expert Jeff Stotts believes his recovery will extend into next year.
Re: Kawhi: Thomas Bryant & Spencer Dinwiddie each missed 60+ games after undergoing surgery for Grade 2 (partial tear) ACL injuries earlier this season. Dinwiddie was cleared for basketball activities ~6 months after surgery. Look for Kawhi’s recovery to carryover into next year.
— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) July 14, 2021
Update as of Jan. 6, 2022: As per a report by Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, Leonard is far ahead of schedule on his recovery and could return to the court for the Clippers this season.
Kawhi Leonard 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 steals per game
- 1.6 turnovers per game
- 31.3 minutes per game
- 49.3 percent shooting
- 38.4 percent 3-point shooting
- 85.8 percent free throw shooting