Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers are ramping up for the NBA playoffs, and it's expected to start this weekend. Leonard is planning to play in his first back-to-back set of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans.
The Clippers star played 18 first half minutes against the Grizzlies on Friday night. He started the second half on the bench, and the Clippers confirmed Kawhi Leonard‘s status for the remainder of the game as well as the plan for him to play on Saturday against the Pelicans.
Clippers confirm Kawhi Leonard is sitting out the second half of tonight's game vs. Grizzlies with the plan to play tomorrow vs. the Pelicans.
It would be Kawhi's first back-to-back set since April 8th and 9th of 2021.
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 1, 2023
Head coach Tyronn Lue confirmed postgame that he plans for Kawhi Leonard to play his full workload on Saturday.
Prior to traveling on the three-game trip, Leonard responded, ‘we'll see,' when asked if he planned to play in the upcoming back-to-back set. One source told ClutchPoints Leonard was expected to be cleared for back-to-backs earlier in the year, but it's unclear what delayed Kawhi's being cleared until the beginning of April.
If Leonard does end up playing on Saturday, it would his first since April 8th and 9th of 2021, when the Clippers took on the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets at home. The Clippers won both games, with Kawhi Leonard playing a combined 70 minutes in the two games.
“We're just going to play it by feel,” Tyronn Lue said on the rotational plans with Leonard back. “We got a rotation in mind that we want to come out, that we want to try to play. A game takes something different every night, and so you can’t just come in with, ‘I'm going to do it this way.’ You just got to see how the flow of the game goes and go from there. We know what we want to do as far as rotation-wise, but if they get out to an 18-5 start again, then you never know what will happen.”
The Clippers recently made a lineup change, inserting Nicolas Batum into the starting lineup in place of Marcus Morris, with Robert Covington taking Batum's previous minutes off the bench. Morris, who has missed the last three games due to health and safety protocols, did not travel with the team and is thus not expected to be available for Saturday's game against the Pelicans.
In 47 appearances in his first season back from a torn ACL, Kawhi Leonard has averaged 23.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.5 steals on 51.3 percent shooting from the field and 41.4 percent from three.
Since January 8th, Leonard as averaged 27.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on an absurd 52.1 percent shooting from the field and 47.4 percent from three.
NOTE: Eric Gordon also sat the second half of Friday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies with right hip soreness. The Clippers confirmed he's dealing with the injury and his status for Saturday's game is in question at this time.