The L.A. Clippers have been bounced from the NBA Playoffs four games to one against the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers ran into a bunch of bad luck, losing Paul George at the end of the regular season and then seeing fellow star Kawhi Leonard go down in their playoff series against the Suns.
Kawhi Leonard played in the first two games of the five-game series before being sidelined with what we thought was a knee sprain or soreness. But, ultimately, it was announced today that the superstar wing had suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee. The same knee that he popped his ACL in 2021.
With the Los Angeles Clippers officially eliminated from the playoffs following a 136-130 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 on Tuesday night, more information about Kawhi Leonard’s knee injury has come to light. The All-Star forward reportedly suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee sometime during the series against the Suns, per The Athletic.
Leonard had missed the last three games of L.A.’s first-round series with what the Clippers classified as a right knee sprain. However, with the Clippers’ season over, it’s now been revealed that the injury was more serious.
This is just brutal news for Leonard, who also suffered a torn ACL in the same knee in the 2021 playoffs. The right knee has been a constant source of injuries for the two-time NBA champion, and it’s derailed any sense of consistency since he’s joined the Clippers.
The timeline for Leonard’s return is unclear at this time, and will likely depend on if he has surgery to repair the meniscus or not. Leonard is reportedly weighing his rehab options, per Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes.
“It’s always in the back of your mind, ‘What if.’ It’s easy to say, ‘What if,’ because a lot of guys get hurt,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said Tuesday night. “It’s just been our luck the last three years.”
The Clippers had Leonard and George together on the floor only 38 times this season, going 24-14 in those games.
This is the second time in three seasons that Leonard has suffered a right knee injury during the playoffs. He suffered a partial tear in his right ACL during the 2021 Western Conference semifinals before undergoing surgery in July 2021 and missing the 2021-22 season.
Leonard was ruled out for Game 5 with a sprained right knee, the same injury that has sidelined teammate Paul George since March 21. Leonard hurt his knee in Game 1 and played through it in Game 2, but his condition worsened.
The 31-year-old missed all of last season while recovering from a torn right ACL.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP averaged 34.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and six assists per game in the first two games against the Suns.
Kawhi Leonard has troublesome history with right knee
Leonard’s right knee has given him problems multiple times over his career. In 2021, Leonard tore his ACL in that same knee. He missed the entire 2021-22 NBA season while recovering from the injury.
Prior to that, Leonard was diagnosed with right quadriceps tendinopathy when he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs. The injury limited Leonard to just nine games during the 2017-18 NBA season.
Despite those injuries, Leonard remains an excellent player when healthy. In the three seasons following his tendiopathy diagnosis, Leonard averaged 26.2 points per game and made the All-Star team each year. He looked strong in his return from his ACL injury this season, when he averaged 23.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in 52 games.
“GP is someone you can throw out there and he can lock up the other team’s best player, make it hard for him,” Wiggins said. “He can rebound, defend and create extra possessions for us. He does a lot.”
Payton’s value — exponentially higher than his $1.9 million veteran’s minimum contract — was on full display last season, which ended with the Warriors winning an NBA championship. When he became a free agent last summer, players and coaches reached a consensus in the desire to re-sign him and keep the core together.
But when the Portland Trail Blazers offered Payton a three-year contract worth as much as $26.1 million, Warriors CEO Joe Lacob, staring at another massive luxury-tax bill, opted out. Not only did Dub Nation express its displeasure, but hushed boos rippled through the locker room.
“I’ve been told,” Payton told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We tried to figure it out in the summer, but it didn’t work. The Bay has always been about love. When I came back, the question I got from fans was, ‘Why did you leave?’ Really, it was a business thing.
“But it’s crazy how the world works out. They had to do what they had to do to get pieces, guys they trust and believe in. I’m thankful that I was one of those guys they believe in and were willing to go through what they did to get me back.”
Barely a month into the season, the Warriors realized, predictably, that their point-of-attack defense Payton’s specialty was not of championship quality. Free-agent signee Donte DiVincenzo is a solid option. Andrew Wiggins can defend some point guards, but he’s better suited for wings. The Warriors believe rookie Ryan Rollins can develop into a defensive menace, but he’s not yet ready.
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