Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard made his debut Monday night after injuring his ACL in Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs against the Utah Jazz.
The five-time All-Star finished with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 16 minutes in the Clippers’ 102-97 preseason win over the Portland Trail Blazers. He also shot 3 for 8 from the field and sank a 3-pointer.
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With Leonard feeling strong after spending the last several months in the gym, his shot was against Portland. After the Clips game, the 10-year veteran explained his poor outing.
“[The timing] It’s coming,” Leonard said of his slow showing. “I’m going to be rusty. Legs definitely feel healthy. Lots of lactic acid in them.”
“But as that time passes, the rhythm returns, the walk, the space, the time returns. Just knowing the play calls, getting used to the crowd, practicing playing T-Lou on the cockroaches, my teammates yelling, breathing, whatever comes along.
Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard says it will take time to get back to normal.
Additionally, Leonard explained that he won’t be playing five-on-five or two-on-two during the playoffs. So the only contact he had with the players was during training camp.
Although, instead of scrutinizing the two-time Finals MVP, fans should be happy to see Leonard play with the Clippers. Like everyone else, the 31-year-old will take time to play at the highest level.
In 576 career games, Leonard averaged 19.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.8 steals per contest. Not to mention, he shot 49.3% from the field and 38.4% from beyond the arc in his career.
Prior to the injury, the wing averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals in 52 starts during the 2020-21 season.
During the 2019-20 season — Leonard’s first season with the Clippers — the forward averaged a career-high 27.1 points and 4.9 assists per game in 57 starts.
According to head coach Tai Lu, Kawai’s body is getting back to normal. That’s all that matters after coming back from a serious injury.
In other good news, his classmate John Wall is back in the game. In Monday’s preseason game, Wall finished with 5 points, 1 rebound and 3 rebounds. However, the old rocket is also rusty. He shot 1-of-4 from the floor.
With Kawhi Leonard and John Wall healthy, the Clippers are a strong playoff contender in the Western Conference. And Paul George finally got more help.