Clippers star out for Game 1 vs. Mavericks with knee inflammation

Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard will not be available for the team’s playoff opener against the Dallas Mavericks as head coach Ty Lue told reporters that Leonard will be out. Prior to Sunday’s press conference, Leonard was regarded as questionable. To that point, he hadn’t taken any contact in practice due to the swelling in his right knee.

Lue did not immediately name a replacement for Leonard. Additionally, Lue had no update as to whether Leonard will be available for Game 2 onward.

In the lead up to Game 1 president Lawrence Frank told reporters the following:

“Kawhi’s been dealing with inflammation for almost three weeks in his right knee; he’s doing everything, our medical staff is doing everything to get the inflammation down so he can play,” Frank said Thursday, via ClutchPoints’ Tomer Azarly. “Progress has been made, but more progress needs — the inflammation needs to continue to reduce so he can do functional basketball movements. We’re hopeful it’s going to get there.”

Frank said that Leonard, who hasn’t played since March 31, has done “the mental preparation part of it, the film study, the personnel review” at practice. When it comes to advancing to full-contact work, he said, the team is taking it day by day. On Sunday, Lue said that “we haven’t gotten that far yet,” when asked about Leonard’s availability to partake in contact work.

“Inflammation is unpredictable,” Frank said then. “We’d love to have a crystal ball and Kawhi would love to have a crystal ball and know exactly on this day, but you just control what you can control. And hopefully the inflammation reduces in a short amount of time and he’s back on the court. That’s the goal.”

Lawrence Frank’s opening statement on Kawhi Leonard:

“Kawhi’s been dealing with inflammation for almost 3 weeks in his right knee. He’s doing everything, our medical staff is doing everything to get the inflammation down so he can play. Progress has been made, but more progress,…

— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 18, 2024
Leonard is dealing with “some very, very stubborn inflammation,” Frank said, via The Athletic’s Law Murray, but “everything structurally is in a really, really good place.”

Before Frank’s press conference, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Stadium (22:26 here) that Leonard “received an injection in his knee to alleviate inflammation” and “after a period of rest, he’s been ramping up.” Charania reported Leonard has been doing “some pretty intense” on-court workouts “in the last week or so.”

Asked about the report, Frank said, “We don’t comment on any specific treatments, obviously.” He added that Leonard is “doing everything he can and we’re doing everything we can medically.”

Frank directly said that “there is no gamesmanship here.” He said the Clippers “want to be as transparent as possible, and also it’s OK to say what the truth is: It’s unpredictable. We’re hoping it’s trending in the right direction.”

Once the swelling is at “an acceptable level,” Frank said, then Leonard can “start with on-court work, and then you continue to build up on it and you get to a point where, first from Kawhi’s standpoint and then from a medical standpoint, we’re comfortable where he can play in a high-level playoff game.” He repeatedly said that there needs to be less swelling before Leonard can do “functional basketball movements” and take contact.

At the end of March, Leonard had played in 68 of Los Angeles’ 74 games. He averaged 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 34.3 minutes per game in the regular season, with .525/.417/.885 shooting splits, and he’ll likely be named to an All-NBA team. The fourth-seeded Clippers could contend for a championship this season, based on how they played from mid-November to early February, provided that Leonard is available, but they could also fall in the first round to the Mavericks, who finished the regular season much stronger.

“This guy lives for these moments,” Frank said. “He played 68 games this year, he’s done a ton of heavy lifting and he prepares himself to be his best when his best is needed. So he’s going to do, like he has, everything in his power to get on the court.”

Frank also cautioned that, “obviously, if he’s not healthy to play at a certain moment, then he won’t be out there.”

Given that Leonard tore the ACL in his right knee in the 2021 playoffs, an injury that cost him the entirety of the following season, and then tore the meniscus in the same knee in last year’s playoffs, an issue with this specific knee is surely the last thing the Clippers wanted to be dealing with. This is where they are, though, and they must simply hope that Leonard can successfully ramp up, suit up and hold up.

“There’s no one who’s more frustrated than Kawhi, who desperately wants to be out there to play,” Frank said. “You just control what you can control.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *