Kawhi Leonard played his most recent NBA game on June 14, a Game 4 win that evened the conference semifinals against Utah. Two days later, it was announced that Leonard had a knee injury, and he missed the remainder of the postseason despite occasional reporting that Leonard was working towards a return should the Clippers make the NBA Finals.
On July 13, the Clippers announced that Leonard had surgery “to repair a partial tear of his right anterior cruciate ligament”, but there was no timetable for his return. In the ensuing 73 days, there had been no further updates on Leonard’s status.
That changed somewhat on Friday, when Lawrence Frank spoke to reporters for the first time since after the NBA Draft. The Clippers president of basketball operations said that though Leonard is “attacking” his rehab, there remains no timeline for when the superstar could return to the court.
“Look, it’s a significant injury,” Frank said. “That’s a significant rehab. He also, like Serge, attacks it, he puts everything into it and he’s always looking for different ways he can expedite his recovery, but it’s gonna take time. Having been in these experiences, especially as a coach with someone who has an injury like this, you make their focus their recovery and that’s first and foremost. The team understands that and that’s how we’re going to proceed. Kawhi is very much engaged day-to-day with his teammates, with the coaching staff, with the front office talking about the team, talking about the guys coming in, watching, but we want his focus to be his recovery and support him in that.”
“We don’t even breach that,” Frank added when asked if there was an anticipation of Leonard playing in the 2021-22 season. “I think at this point, it’s just no one knows when you’re dealing with a recovery from an ACL [injury], the timeframe.... No one knows. You just attack it day by day, he has a very detailed plan with a great group and we’ll just let his body and the doctors tell us when it’s the right time.”
The Clippers added forward depth for Leonard’s absence, including drafting Brandon Boston Jr. and signing Justise Winslow in free agency. Frank noted that the team is expecting Terance Mann to make another jump this year after he started in Leonard’s place during the postseason. Per Frank, Mann has had a “tremendous offseason”.
Although it’s unfortunate to hear that Leonard is on such a nebulous timeline, it isn’t surprising, and it’s probably easier to approach the season without hope of Leonard returning. If he does, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.