The Clippers reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history last season. If they want to get back into that playoff round again, they will have to collectively replace the production of their best player.
Kawhi Leonard will be out of the game indefinitely after undergoing surgery in July to repair a partial anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee. Leonard may rejoin the rotation at some point during the 2021-22 season, but Paul George and company are expected to do the heavy lifting to start the new season.
What’s next for Leonard? Here’s everything we know about his injury and the latest news on when he can return to the court.
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What is Kawhi Leonard’s injury?
Leonard suffered a right knee injury during Game 4 of the 2021 Western Conference semifinals. The two-time Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals limped in after a drive to the basket against Jazz forward Joe Ingles . He ended up sitting the last four minutes or more of that contest, but in his post-game interview with TNT’s Rebecca Haarlow, he said, “I’ll be good.”
With 5:25 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 4 against the Jazz, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard injured his right knee.
After the game, Leonard told TNT: “I’ll be good.”
🎥: TNT pic.twitter.com/DJGcSQitCs
– KSL Sports (@kslsports) June 15, 2021
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 underwent successful surgery to repair his partially torn ACL, adding that there is “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 schedule on 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.”
“That’s the challenge, just seeing how fast I can improve and be stronger than I was when I’m healthy,” Leonard said. “That’s where I practically direct my thinking.”
The 30-year-old added that he signed a long-term contract 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 could this year,” Leonard said. “If I had taken the one and one [deal]I probably wouldn’t have played just to be cautious and opt out and take a five-year period [deal]. But I `m here. I am here to be a Clipper. I’m not going to go to another team unless something drastic happens. I’m here for the long haul. “
While it’s impossible to know exactly how much time Leonard will lose, injury expert Jeff Stotts believes his recovery will extend into next year.
Re: Kawhi: Thomas Bryant and Spencer Dinwiddie missed more than 60 games after undergoing surgery for grade 2 anterior cruciate ligament injuries (partial tear) earlier this season. Dinwiddie was cleared for basketball activities ~ 6 months after surgery. Look for Kawhi’s recovery for the next year.
– Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) July 14, 2021
Update as of January 6, 2022: According to a report by Chris Haynes from Yahoo SportsLeonard is way ahead of schedule in his recovery and could return to the court for the Clippers this season.
Kawhi Leonard career stats, recaps
- 19.2 points per game
- 6.4 rebounds per game
- 2.9 assists per game
- 0.6 blocks per set
- 1.8 steals per game
- 1.6 Turnovers per game
- 31.3 minutes per game
- 49.3 percent of shots
- 38.4 percent from 3-point shots
- 85.8 percent free throws