Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard Reportedly Won’t Return from Knee Injury in Suns Series
Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
Los Angeles Clippers superstar forward Kawhi Leonard will not return to the floor for the remainder of the Western Conference Finals, sources told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
The small forward has been rehabbing a sprained knee in Los Angeles and is not ruling out playing in the NBA Finals should the Clippers advance. Haynes said representatives of Leonard will meet with L.A. to discuss next steps if the team moves past the Phoenix Suns.
Haynes noted Leonard has not ruled out a return at some point during the postseason.
Phoenix leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 with Game 6 at Staples Center on Wednesday night.
Leonard is arguably the best two-way player in the NBA when healthy, but injuries have nagged him at times throughout the past few seasons.
During the 2020-21 regular season, his second campaign with the team, the two-time NBA Finals MVP averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.9 three-pointers made and 1.6 steals per contest in 52 of the Clips’ 72 games.
The team rested the 30-year-old often in hopes that it would keep him fresh and healthy for the playoffs, and it initially seemed to work as evidenced by his playoff averages of 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
Despite the rest, Leonard could not avoid the injury bug, as he suffered a knee sprain that cost him the final two games of the Clippers’ second-round series against the Utah Jazz and the first five games of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns.
The 6’7″ forward was named to the All-NBA first team and All-Defensive second team this season, so there is a massive hole in their lineup when he doesn’t play.
Paul George has performed at a superstar level when Leonard has missed time during the playoffs, but L.A. is missing a second star whenever Leonard is on the shelf.
Other players who have stepped up in Leonard’s absence include guards Reggie Jackson and Terance Mann, although the Clippers will need contributions from even more players to thrive without their top star.
Among the players who head coach Tyronn Lue may call upon include Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris Sr., Luke Kennard and Patrick Beverley.
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