Kawhi Leonard reveals his health after NBA hiatus
LOS ANGELES – Kawhi Leonard came out of the shadows for the first time in four months, speaking to members of the media after clearing quarantine and joining the LA Clippers for his first practice on Monday afternoon. The two-time champion flew to Orlando on his own, arrived Friday night, and underwent the proper protocols to return to the court.
No one had publicly heard from Leonard throughout the NBA hiatus, save for his teammates, coaches, and front office staff members. It’s clear, however, that Leonard made the most of every day during the break.
“It’s just like an off-season, pretty much,” Leonard told media members of the break. “You usually have three months and then come in for a training camp, have a couple practices, then you’ve got the preseason games. That’s pretty much the mindset. But like everybody knows, you only get eight games to get ready for the postseason. But pretty much just take that same timeline to prepare yourself. Everybody knows their body and knows what they need to do, so I mean, it’s going to be my first practice today, so we’re going to go out and see how I feel and then just go from there, just keep building off of that. But nobody knows.”
It’s been just over four months since the NBA indefinitely suspended the 2019-20 regular season. Apparently, it hasn’t even felt like four months to Leonard.
“Has it been four months?” Kawhi asked with a laugh.
The Clippers sent workout equipment to their players’ homes and coordinated Zoom calls throughout the hiatus to stay in shape and, ‘win the wait,’ as Doc Rivers coined the Clippers’ goals.
Leonard says the Clippers didn’t risk anything when the quarantines started. Instead, everyone went home to stay with their families while staying in contact and continuing to work out.
“Other than communication between phone or text, that was pretty easy. When it first started, everybody was pretty much quarantined with their family, didn’t want to risk anything, just trying to be responsible. But as things went on and as the NBA started to open up practice facilities and just interaction our engagements with the front office, just took it for what it was, making sure everybody cleaned their hands, be safe, and just tried to control the symptoms from there. Just see if someone has symptoms, and if they did, you’ve got to stay away, don’t try to go to the gym with them. It was difficult, but I think everybody on their own time was able to focus on themselves and make sure their body and their mind was going to be prepared for this moment here. So that’s pretty much what it was. You just had to be selfish from that standpoint and just making sure that you stay healthy and you’re protecting your body and getting better.”
Early in the 2019-20 regular season, there were concerns that Leonard was not 100 percent healthy. He wasn’t a full participant in training camp and sat out at least one half of a back-to-back set throughout the season. Leonard says he’s healthy now and ready to go for the Orlando training camp.
“I feel good. I was able to work out, get strong and prepare for this moment now that we’re in. It’s about to be the first practice today, so I’m excited.”
A healthy Leonard and Clippers is exactly what the franchise needed as they begin their pursuit for their first NBA Championship. The hope is that everyone sticks to the bubble protocols and stays healthy to avoid an outbreak. Just minutes before Leonard’s conference call, the NBA and NBPA announced that two players tested positive for the coronavirus since arriving onto the Orlando campus. Additionally, two players were also caught breaking the bubble protocols and have been forced to quarantine for 10 days before they can resume events with their teams.
“It’s no surprise to me that somebody got it within the bubble. You bring in so many people from different cities and states, and there’s no control over it pretty much.”
“But I think we’re doing the best that we can. The NBA put together this process, this quarantine, and we’re doing everything under the guidelines of testing every day, trying to keep ourselves socially distant from everyone. But who knows, I mean, what’s going to happen. All we can do is try to stay optimistic about it and positive, and hopefully we can finish this season.”
More than anything, Leonard is just happy to get back to basketball. There have been mentions of an asterisk around this season’s NBA champion, considering who will be healthy or available by October, but none of that matters to Leonard. The two-time Finals MVP is just going with the flow of the season.
“This is just the layout of this year. Just stay focused. It’s not like a regular NBA season. Nobody’s life is pretty much how they planned it to be at this point with the pandemic, so I mean, you take it for what it is. Everybody is happy that a championship will be crowned this year, and if that’s the 2020 championship, then we want it. You know, that’s how I look at it. This is what the layout is, as far as to go out there and complete this journey.”
In his first season with the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard was averaging career highs across the board with 26.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.1 three-pointers per game on 46.9 percent shooting from the field.