PLAYA VISTA – The LA Clippers are preparing to start their postseason run without Kawhi Leonard, but the team is still feeling his impact off the court. Just ask Clippers guard Reggie Jackson.
Jackson has played in 74 of the Clippers’ 80 games this season, leading the charge despite the extended absences of Leonard and Paul George. Part of the motivating factor behind some of his consistent play this season has been watching the rehab processes of his two star players, but namely Kawhi Leonard’s.
“It’s amazing,” Reggie Jackson said of watching Kawhi Leonard work and his presence. “It’s been great, just having him back. Throughout the year, we’ve seen him. He’s been vigorously going through his workouts. You don’t see anybody work like him. It’s special to see. It’s special to see.”
"He's been vigorously going through his workouts. You don't see anybody work like him. It's special to see…. Dude's a machine… That's how he works. It's maniacal, so, it's been fun to just see him."
Reggie Jackson on Kawhi Leonard pic.twitter.com/MicwXvfqWX
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 8, 2022
Leonard has missed all 80 games for the Clippers as he rehabs from a partially torn ACL in his right knee. He’s now nine months post-op, but there doesn’t appear to be any return on the horizon for the star forward.
Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said Friday that Leonard was not participating in any three-on-three work and strictly doing individual workouts as of right now.
The level of work Leonard is putting in despite being sidelined, however, still has everybody in the organization impressed.
“Dude’s a machine,” Jackson added. “Like, he’s a machine. That’s how he works. It’s maniacal. It’s been fun to just see him, get his energy back in the building, for me to see his greatness unfold right before us, see us work out each and every day. To see him, going through, hitting his markers. It’s just been good. And then just being able to chat with him, pick his brain, sitting down, he’s a man of few words for y’all but just getting his vibes back, joking, any time he’s around the team, he really is Fun Guy. So, even though we don’t necessarily have him on the court right now, just having his energy back in the building, it relaxes. I know for myself, it relaxes me even more. You can feel guys kind of at ease, we’re feeling better.”
Reggie Jackson couldn’t offer any updates on Kawhi Leonard’s injury timetable, but did say it’s gonna be scary once he does come back.
“We’re hoping we get big brother back here at any time, but I mean, when you got a special guy like that and they do what they do, you’re always better for having them around. We’re feeling better that we just had got Paul back, got Norm back, we’re getting closer to whole, but you know, when Big Dog comes back, it’s gonna be on for real.”
Prior to Kawhi Leonard’s injury, the Clippers went through the Dallas Mavericks and were on their way to making quick work of the Utah Jazz. They fell short against the Phoenix Suns, but the first six games Leonard participated in featured some signature moments for the two-time NBA Finals MVP.
A 45-point performance on 72 percent shooting in a must-win Game 6 on the road was one of the big games. Monster poster dunks on Maxi Kleber and Derrick Favors were a few others.
“The whole picture from the hoodie,” Jackson said, referencing Kawhi Leonard’s dunk on Mavs’ big man Maxi Kleber. “I was in awe. I can’t like, I can’t remember if we won the game or not, I just remember being like, ‘Oh snap. All right, dude’s different.’ Like I had a little different relax. I’m already confident in myself — I think everybody knows that — but it felt good, when he hit that play, I was looking around like, ‘Ayo, we know we got the best player in here.’
“Then Game 6, when we were going to [Dallas], funny talking about it with Paul [George] again, with a few friends, we were just [talking about] how incredible [Kawhi] is. How special he is, his attention to detail, his ability to work, like, how bad he wants it, I just remember the workout. It had nothing to do with the game, it was seeing him work out before Game 6, that’s when I seen it, I was like, ‘Yooo!'”
Kawhi Leonard destroys Maxi Kleber 🤯🔥pic.twitter.com/DwX1jV2lWM
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 22, 2021
Kawhi Leonard’s play impressed Reggie Jackson so much, he really believed the team was on it’s way to an NBA Championship before he suffered the season-ending injury.
“I’m not saying we’d be champs if he never got hurt, but just the way I seen him approach the game, I was already in my mind envisioning a title. Like, that’s the type of confidence he can instill. Because you know he can control a game, you know like what he’s capable of. It was just seeing how hard he worked, Game 6, still I remember in my mind, it was easier, the game was easier for him than what I seen him do in his workout before.
“We’re all made of mind, body, spirit, like, he was so in tune, he’s so in sync and he’s so special in all aspects, when you see it come together, you can feel the presence, you just know you’re in the presence of greatness, you know it’s something different. And when that guy gets going, it’s scary.”
It’s still unclear as to whether Kawhi Leonard will return at any point this postseason, but the impact of having the Clippers star around is still significantly felt.