According the Associated Press, Kawhi Leonard’s return from injury again has no timetable. He’s played in two games for the LA Clippers so far this season, and will miss nine straight games by the time the Election Day break begins.
This is another blow for the ill-fated Clippers franchise, whose owner Steve Ballmer celebrated jubilantly after signing both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to max deals in the summer of 2019. Ballmer, so far, has only seen a good return on investment from George, who has had to carry their offense especially in the playoffs.
George has done an admirable job of trying to shoulder the load for the Clippers, but he can’t possibly be expected to carry them to a title alone. In their last full series, the 2021 Western Conference Finals that they lost 4-2 to the Phoenix Suns, George played 41.2 minutes a game and averaged 28.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
So that brings us to the question: will Leonard ever get back to the point where he’s healthy enough to contribute consistently? Load management has become a norm for him for years, and while it seems that it helped him deliver a championship to the Toronto Raptors in the greatest one-year rental in NBA history, things are not looking good for him or the Clippers in the present day.
It’s a damn shame, too, because at his best, Leonard is a generational two-way talent that can lock down an opponent’s best wing player on one end and then deliver an ice-cold game-winning shot on the other. This is a man who sent LeBron James back to Cleveland after taking down the Heatles, and then defeated the Warriors after both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson went down injured.
The last time he was healthy, the Klaw averaged 27.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and four assists while playing 36.7 minutes a game in the 2021 Western Conference Semifinals. In the previous round, he played 40.7 minutes a game while averaging 32.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists. If the Clippers had that production to go along with George’s efforts, they would certainly be a near-lock to make the Conference Finals every season.
Unfortunately, his time in LA has stayed rocky due to his injuries. Paul Pierce recently mused that it may be time to start looking at Kawhi Leonard in the same way as Anthony Davis – another generational star who is always hurt.
While Leonard can’t do anything about the state of his knees, it’s certainly looking like he might end up being a bust for the Clippers. He certainly has not played enough to justify the $176 million his contract is worth, and the likelihood of a return to form lessens with each setback.