Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard will reportedly attend a training camp in Las Vegas starting next Tuesday. His participation will be the final stage of his recovery from an ACL injury sustained in 2021. However, the Clippers wanted his return handled with a “step by step” approach.
“He feels great,” Clippers president Lawrence Frank said. “His plan is, look, he wants to participate in everything. And I think organizationally, we’re going to be cautious. So it will be a step-by-step approach.”
“Basically, Kawhi’s done a lot of controlled basketball for a long time,” Frank added. “Though 5-on-5 is viewed to the layman as a benchmark, it’s more complicated than that.”
“Ultimately, he keeps trending towards being able to play in an NBA basketball game, and so he’ll just continue to take those steps in camp.”
The five-time All-Star did not play for the Clippers last season after tearing his right ACL in Game 4 of the Clippers’ second-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on June 14, 2021.
From that Game 4 loss to the end of 2021-22, the Clippers missed 387 games due to injuries and COVID-19. The Clippers ended up being defeated in both the Western Conference Finals that year and the play-in tournament the following season.
The Clippers will open their season against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 20, but they will play two preseason games at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena on September 30 and October 3. Frank has not indicated whether Leonard will participate in the preseason. The team will adjust to Leonard’s results by taking each day as it comes.
“When you’re dealing with a major injury, you can’t predict,” Frank said. “I know with him, he wants to do everything, but we’ll just kind of let’s see how he feels each day. We have an outstanding medical team, and we’re playing the long game with it.
Clippers’ current roster
Clippers’ seven-time NBA All-Star, Paul George, another Clippers star, is also completely healing from a torn UCL in his right elbow. George missed three months of last season before returning for five games late in the regular season. He averaged 24.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 5.7 assists in 31 games last season.
“His elbow is 100 percent healthy,” the Clippers president said. “Paul has had an extremely purposeful, driven, and very productive off-season, in that his consistency of training has been off the charts. Plus, he continues to take more and more of an ownership and leadership role. “
When George and Leonard first joined forces ahead of the 2019-20 season, the Clippers were considered one of the title favorites. To this point, their partnership has been defined by frustrating postseason collapses and injury issues.
For this season, the Clippers have high expectations with their superstar pair back in shape and active, as well as the additions of shooting guard Norman Powell, forward Robert Covington, and NBA All-Star John Wall.
In early 2019, Wall tore his Achilles tendon while playing for the Washington Wizards, the team that drafted him first overall in 2010. Wall claimed that the surgeries caused such a severe infection that he nearly had his foot amputated.
Over the last three NBA seasons, he has also missed 40 games due to injuries. Wall’s most recent game was on April 23, 2021, when he had 27 points and 13 assists in a five-point loss. This offseason, the veteran point guard has been working his way back to the court.
“We want John to be really good in the regular season and exceptional in the postseason. So we’ll just kind of prioritize his help along the way,” Frank said.