LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard said “it will be a long path” until he is totally recovered from the right ACL injury that caused him to miss the whole 2021-22 NBA season after he played in his first game after rehabilitating his knee for the previous 3 1/2 weeks.
It’ll take at least two years to complete. Leonard stated this after the Clippers’ 96-91 victory against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday at Crypto.com Arena. “Everybody believes it’s a one-year process.” Neither do we. Once we keep going, we’ll see what happens.
Before then, his condition was categorized as uncertain.
For the game, Leonard started all 25 minutes and ended with six points (2-for-8 shooting, 0-for-3 on 3-pointers), five rebounds, and four assists. Coach Tyronn Lue of the Clippers lauded Leonard for his mobility, defense, and plus-26 rating, even if Leonard had a poor shooting night.
As for his mobility, “he looked fairly good,” Lue added. For our defense specifically, his influence is tremendous. We are a completely different squad when he’s on the court. When he has the ball in his hands, we feel at ease.
The Clippers tried to limit Leonard’s minutes and keep him fresh for the playoffs by having him start two of the first three games after coming off the bench. The 11-year veteran played 21 minutes per game, averaging 12.5 points on 44.4 percent shooting and 6.5 rebounds. He subsequently missed 12 games due to right knee stiffness.
Lue, though, has decided against taking that course of action.
“That was just too horrible,” Lue said. I didn’t like it at all. One of the greatest players is sitting on your bench.
After participating in his first 5-on-5 exercises on November 11, Leonard’s official season began. Lue said that since then, Leonard has participated in “a few of instances” of 5-on-5 drills. On the Clippers’ recent two-game road trip to Houston and Dallas, Leonard was also there. The Clippers gave Leonard a boost after Thursday morning’s shootaround, and Lue decided to start him against the Pistons in an effort to help him get into a better groove and foster better team chemistry.
It is expected that Leonard will suit up for the Clippers on Saturday when they take on the San Antonio Spurs (6-10). (10:30 ET, NBA League Pass). But what comes next?
In all honesty, I don’t know,” Lue said. Making sure he’s feeling okay will be a process that unfolds game by game and day by day. We’re putting our faith in our medical team and seeing how things develop. The most crucial part is just seeing his reaction. Not like he has any requirements to fulfill or anything.
Despite everything, Leonard has managed to maintain his composure.
Leonard: “Now I can finally go into the game and start playing, so this is the easy part.” However, I spent a lot of time last season doing all I could to get my knee and body back in shape. The realization that I couldn’t put my feet on the ground was a major letdown. However, I exerted some effort to get at this juncture. I know I have a long way to go, but I must not give up hope.