The Los Angeles Clippers have been trying to bring back Kawhi Leonard as slowly as possible, but even that process can see some delays.
Leonard was ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as a game against the same team on Thursday, after feeling stiffness in his surgically repaired right knee at pregame shootaround, per ESPN.
Clippers head Tyronn Lue reportedly made it clear Leonard has not coached a setback in his rehab from a torn ACL in the 2021 NBA playoffs, but the star will still fly back to Los Angeles to undergo treatment on the knee.
“After shootaround, (he) experienced some stiffness in his knee,” Lue said before the Clippers played the Thunder. “And so we want to be cautious, make sure we’re doing the right thing by him, even though he wanted to play. We just thought it wasn’t smart. He can be mad at us if he wants to but just not smart right now.”
After Thursday, the Clippers’ next game is against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. Leonard’s status for that game is TBD.
Clippers bringing Kawhi Leonard back slowly, Paul George also out Tuesday
Leonard’s return from a knee surgery that cost him all of last season has so far been limited, but encouraging when he’s on the court. At Leonard’s reported request, the Clippers have brought him off the bench and he has so far played in two of three games, skipping the first half of a back-to-back.
Leonard has so far posted 25 points and 13 rebounds in 42 minutes played, shooting 8-of-18 from the field.
It has been made very clear that the Clippers are willing to wait for Leonard to feel fully operational before giving him the minutes and usage he usually sees. The team figures to make the playoffs even without him given its immense depth, though that strength is already seeing some testing this season.
The Clippers will also be without starters Paul George (illness) and Marcus Morris (personal reasons) on Tuesday, leaving the team to start Terance Mann and Nicolas Batum alongside Ivica Zubac, Norman Powell and Reggie Jackson.