Saturday, April 1 2023
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When Kawhi Leonard missed the 2021-22 NBA season recovering from a torn ACL, the assumption was that he’d be able to return fully healthy for the 2022-23 campaign. That’s not what happened. Though Leonard did play on opening night against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers star has played only 42 total minutes across two appearances thus far this season. His second appearance came on Oct. 23 against the Suns, and he’s been out ever since. There hasn’t been a clear explanation offered for why that is aside from managing and injury to that same right knee. Clippers coach Ty Lue did address Leonard’s injury Sunday, though, and indicated that the team does not know when he will be able to return.

“There’s really not a time frame of when he is going to be back,” Lue told reporters when asked if Leonard’s status is considered more week-to-week than day-to-day now. “The biggest thing is just the testing that he has to go through with the medical and the slow progression of just getting better every single day. And so we’re just taking it day by day right now, not really a timetable.”

Leonard, now in his fourth season in Los Angeles, has played just 111 regular-season games for the Clippers. After starting 2-4, the Clippers rallied to win three straight games before falling to the Utah Jazz Sunday. That has them at 5-5 for the season, but there are still serious concerns about this team’s viability without Leonard. The Clippers are scoring just 103 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 29th in the NBA ahead of only the Lakers. They’ve survived on the strength of their fourth-ranked defense.

But that defense won’t matter if Leonard isn’t healthy when it counts. In addition to knee issues, Leonard has been dealing with a quad condition that has lingered since his San Antonio days. Managing his health will be the single-biggest story for the Clippers this season. If he can’t stay on the floor, they can’t win a championship. It’s as simple as that.



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