The Los Angeles Clippers are set to face Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on Wednesday night. The Clippers last played on Monday night, defeating the Utah Jazz without Paul George and Luke Kennard. With LA back in action, fans want to know if Kawhi Leonard will be playing tonight vs. the Warriors.
Is Clippers star Kawhi Leonard playing vs. Warriors?
Leonard played in the Clippers' season opener against the Lakers, but he came off the bench to play limited minutes. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes of play as LA earned a victory.
After sitting out the first half of a back-to-back set, Leonard played in the home opener against the Phoenix Suns. He finished that game with 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Kawhi Leonard was then ruled out indefinitely for the Clippers with what the team called “right knee soreness.” Swelling and irritation in the surgically repaired knee kept Leonard out of a major stretch, but Paul George stepped up in his absence to help carry the team. Leonard went on to miss the next 12 games, with the team going 6-6 in his absence.
No back-to-backs for Kawhi Leonard, whose focus is strengthening his ACL right now.
“You gotta gradually play minutes in order to get the ACL strong. Once you start playing 38 minutes first game, it could easily weaken up. I’m listening to the doctors with that.” pic.twitter.com/NAo6wErUkj
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) October 21, 2022
Upon returning from the injury, Leonard has participated in the last three games for the Clippers, all of which have been wins. In the latest game against the Utah Jazz, Kawhi Leonard suffered a sprained right ankle late in the game while attempting to block a shot.
Both Leonard and head coach Tyronn Lue downplayed the injury, saying the two-time NBA Finals MVP would be fine:
"Yeah, I'm good. Just rolled my ankle, but I should be fine."
Kawhi Leonard on the tweak of his ankle late in Clippers-Jazz. pic.twitter.com/MiDiNYD0zn
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) November 22, 2022
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) November 23, 2022
Here's a look at the play where Kawhi Leonard tweaked his ankle:
— 𝐉𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧 𝐑𝐮𝐬𝐬𝐨 (@FlyByKnite) November 23, 2022
Ahead of Wednesday's game against the Golden State Warriors, the LA Clippers have ruled Kawhi Leonard out with the same sprained ankle.
There's a good reason why LA wants to be so cautious. The Clippers need Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to be fresh when it matters down the stretch and into the postseason, so that means playing it safe throughout the season.
Leonard underwent surgery to repair the partial tear of his right anterior cruciate ligament on July 13, 2021. His absence from the basketball court spanned about 15 months, and he put in a lot of work to be ready to play for the 2022-23 season.
“Just being great in my minutes,” Kawhi Leonard said of his goals while he's currently limited. “Like I said before, I gotta go out there and do what I can to win a basketball game in the minutes that I'm receiving. Just whenever I was on the court, tried to play winning basketball on both ends.”
There was a lot of anticipation for Kawhi Leonard's return last season, but the star and the team ultimately ended up playing it safe and sitting him out for the whole year.
Lue recently talked about playing it safe with Kawhi Leonard and John Wall despite their returns from injury.
“We have a goal in mind of what we want those guys to play and so I’m not going to let you guys know that, but just make sure we do the right thing, just being smart and trusting the data that we’ve received back from those guys and just making sure their body’s feeling well, how they’re feeling, and then we can continue to slowly, slowly progress. But we just got to make sure right now we’re doing right by those guys and even if they want to play more and do more we can’t allow that to happen.”
This all makes sense as the Clippers move forward in the 2022-23 season. As for the Clippers' matchup against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, the question is answered. Is Kawhi Leonard playing tonight? No, he isn't.