LOS ANGELES — If the Los Angeles Clippers are to compete for an NBA championship, their hopes hinge on the health of star Kawhi Leonard. Through the first 10 games of the 2022-23 season, the results haven't been great.
Leonard has missed seven consecutive games for the Clippers with what the team is calling “knee stiffness.” Unfortunately, there appears to be no return date in sight.
“He is progressing well,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said of Kawhi Leonard Sunday. “We knew coming off an ACL, it wasn’t going to be a straight line. We talked about it before the season. The biggest thing is he’s progressing well. We are going to follow the lead of our medical staff, we got to be smart about the situation, but he is progressing.”
"He’s progressing well. We knew coming off an ACL, it wasn’t going to be a straight line… The biggest thing is he’s progressing well. We're going to follow the lead of our medical staff, we got to be smart about the situation, but he’s progressing."
Ty Lue on Kawhi Leonard pic.twitter.com/Pp5k2klbsn
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) November 7, 2022
The two-time NBA Finals MVP last played on Oct. 23 against the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers and Leonard adopted a plan to help bring him back up to speed cautiously by bringing him off the bench. He only played two games before being shut down indefinitely due to some swelling and tightness in the surgically repaired knee.
“He has been doing some individual stuff, he’s been working,” Lue added. “He is feeling pretty good and is progressing in the right direction. That is the most important thing for us.”
Last week, Tyronn Lue said Kawhi Leonard was game-to-game as far as his return was concerned. He didn't travel with the team on their two-game Texas road trip this past week, and there's good reason to believe he won't play in any of the games remaining on their four-game home-stand.
“There's really not a timeframe of when he is gonna be back,” Tyronn Lue explained. “The biggest thing is just the testing that he has to go through with the medical and the slowly, the slow progression of just getting better every single day. And so we're just taking it day by day right now, not really a timetable.”
Even though Kawhi Leonard's absence does have something to do with the Clippers' offensive and defensive struggles, it hasn't altered their mindset. Paul George has taken the reins of the Clippers' offense so far.
“We’ve still got a job to do,” said George, who has averaged 32.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.5 steals on 56 percent shooting from the field and 44.7 percent from 3-point range over the last four games. “As one of the leaders of this team, we still got a job to do regardless of who’s playing, who’s not playing… We’re not playing the defense that we need to be playing. Offensively, we’re not getting nothing out of it on the offensive end as well. We just got to figure it out. We got to get to the bottom of it.”
LA dropped to 5-5 with a 110-102 loss to the upstart Utah Jazz on Sunday night. The Clippers' upcoming week doesn't get any easier as they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Brooklyn Nets at home over the next week. Until fans see an actual change in how he's being talked about by the team, Clippers fans just should expect Kawhi Leonard to be sidelined.