SEATTLE – The long-anticipated return of Kawhi Leonard is nearly over. The LA Clippers star is set to return to the lineup as soon as Monday’s preseason matchup against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Head coach Tyronn Lue said everyone who is out for Friday’s preseason opener will end up playing on Monday.
The plan is for Kawhi Leonard to make his preseason debut on Monday vs. the Blazers, says Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue.
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) October 1, 2022
If Leonard does end up returning for Monday’s game, that’ll end a 476 day absence away from the basketball court for the two-time NBA Finals MVP.
The Clippers’ star last played in June 2021 in Game 4 against the Utah Jazz. He would miss the next 15 months as he recovered from ACL surgery. Now, the Clippers star is set to return to the lineup.
The Clippers practiced for three days in Las Vegas on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Kawhi Leonard only participated in the first two days, taking a scheduled rest day on the third day. John Wall also participated in practice the first two days and sat the third.
With four preseason games on tap for the Clippers, Tyronn Lue’s club will have four opportunities to tinker with some lineups before the games that really count begin.
“I think just playing the right way,” Lue said as to what he’s looking for in preseason. “Making the right pass, making the right play, pushing the ball, advance passes and then defensively getting on the same page defensively. That’s going to be, that’s what we’re going to hang our hat on this year is trying to be a great defensive team so offensively like I said we don’t have a lot of stuff in so it’s just moreso knowing different cuts, timing of cuts, reads and things like that so we’ll see how that fares tonight.”
The Clippers have three remaining preseason games: Monday, Oct. 3rd vs. the Blazers, Sunday, Oct. 9th vs. the Timberwolves, and Wednesday, Oct. 12th vs. the Nuggets. They’ll then get seven days to prepare for their season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 20th.
While Kawhi Leonard’s Clippers are all healthy right now, a large contingent of players will be monitored and even load-managed throughout the season. The team has 15 back-to-backs, which should essentially rule Leonard and some of the aging veterans out of at least one half of those games. The depth of this roster makes it especially easier to sit guys throughout the year.