During the Clippers’ contest against the Phoenix Suns, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports gave an interesting update about Kawhi Leonard, who has missed the entire season to date rehabbing a surgically-repaired ACL in his right knee:
“League sources have informed me that Kawhi Leonard is actually ahead of schedule in his rehab and that a return this season is a strong possibility. Speaking with multiple Clippers players, they say he won’t be concerned with their playoff slotting believing that if fully healthy, they’ll be favorites over most in the West.”
In a corresponding piece on Yahoo, Haynes reported, “Leonard has amped up his workload in recent weeks and is looking stronger and stronger.”
The fact that Leonard is “ahead of schedule” doesn’t give a firm timeline. Lawrence Frank and Ty Lue have been careful not to put any date on Leonard’s potential return, even if external reports have suggested all along that Leonard will return this season. Leonard also said that he wanted to play this year without clarifying if that was likely or not. Nevertheless, Haynes assigning a “strong possibility” to Leonard coming back is more definitive than anything we have heard to date.
The more interesting part of Haynes’ TV report is arguably the second sentence. In theory, Leonard would be more likely to return to a team if there was a possibility of a championship run. However, if Leonard isn’t concerned with the Clippers’ playoff slotting, that would suggest he can comfortably return before the end of the season without having to push himself to be ready for the playoffs. No one on the Clippers wants to rush Leonard, so if he is willing to come back regardless of how well the team is doing, that should be a positive indicator for his health.
The team has yet to give an official update on Leonard since Frank spoke with the media prior to the preseason. When Lue was asked about how Leonard was doing on Dec. 26, Lue said that the star was doing good, but that he tries not to focus on Leonard’s recovery so he doesn’t get too excited.
At the very least, it’s good to hear that there haven’t been any setbacks with Leonard. Because if and when he does return, Haynes is right that these Clippers would be favorites over most other teams.