Paul George, Serge Ibaka, and the Los Angeles Clippers got their two-time NBA Finals MVP back in action on Wednesday night. Kawhi Leonard returned from a two-game absence due to a mouth laceration and led the Clippers to a home win over the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.
Leonard scored 28 points on an efficient 9-of-17 shooting from the field. His entire 30 minutes on the court, however, were spent donning a new mask to protect his face from any hits to the mouth area.
Apparently, the new nickname that George, Ibaka, and the Clippers have for Leonard is “Leatherface.”
“Serge can’t talk too much. We got him on the trading block right now. Whoever wants him, let us know.”
Kawhi Leonard says Serge Ibaka is on the trade block after injuring him 🤣#Clippers pic.twitter.com/01Qf0Swddr
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) December 31, 2020
Per the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard was diagnosed with a mouth laceration during the team's Christmas Day matchup with the Denver Nuggets. The injury, which was caused when Leonard and Serge Ibaka attempted to grab an offensive rebound, required eight stitches on the inside of Leonard's mouth to close.
This had to hurt…
Kawhi Leonard takes a nasty elbow to the mouth from Clippers teammate Serge Ibaka. 😱pic.twitter.com/Did2RcMEox
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) December 26, 2020
Leonard expects to wear the mask for the foreseeable future, allowing the wound to heal up and for the stitches to be removed. He does, however, add that he hopes the team can create a different, more comfortable mask for him as well.
“Just where the injury is, it's a little difficult,” the Clippers star added after the game. “Some guys have cheek fractures or they break their nose, and mine is really like trying to protect the stitches from getting hit and ripped, so it's a different scenario. You know, you're trying to protect the lips and my jaw and my cheek. You know, it's hard to do and that's what I'm saying, it's kind of hard to breathe, cuz you can't really expose my mouth so much, you have to bring it out and put a hole in. But there's a whole process to it. You know, we’re still trying to work on something better, but it worked out pretty well tonight. I might have to get a mouthpiece or something.”
After a 2-1 home stand, the Clippers depart for a two-game road trip in Utah and Phoenix against the Jazz and Suns, respectively. Both teams are playing well and are expected to be playoff teams, so Leonard, George, and the Clippers will surely have their hands full.