As the brunt of the offseason drama begins to swing into full effect, the most exciting news for one fanbase may just be no news at all. For the LA Clippers, more important than any draft pick or free agent acquisition this offseason, may just be the health of their players. And among those players, none could be more important than Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard, who sat out all of last season but nonetheless has been attacking rehab with a fervor, is giving fans and front office alike something to feel good about. Leonard was recently described by Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, as “maniacal in his work ethic,” and that the team was “glad [that they] can afford the light bill because he’s putting in the hours”.
Law Murray of The Athletic noted something similar. According to Murray (emphasis mine):
The primary item to watch this offseason is Leonard’s recovery from surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee, which took place last July. I am told Leonard has not been restricted at all this month as he continues what has been to this point a successful rehabilitation process. Leonard has also been locked in mentally, as multiple sources suggest the mental hurdles that usually come with an ACL injury and long-term rehab have not deterred him. Though Leonard appears to be bigger, he has actually slimmed down at this point in his recovery and is continuing to take care of his body.
Murray continued to note that “the optimism surrounding Leonard’s improvement, however guarded, seems to be validated by those who have been around him regularly.”
Leonard has often been described as a gym rat by former coaches and teammates around the league. And while his mentality and determination were never in question, it’s nonetheless reassuring to hear news that his body is keeping up with the intensity as well.
As he was forced to the sideline throughout the entire 2021-22 season, Leonard’s return to the lineup next year could be thought of as that direct addition to last year’s team. Similarly, healthy seasons from Paul George and Norman Powell are sure to excite Clippers fans.
However, despite being “on course where he’s developing really well,” Leonard was noted as not having been tested in 5-on-5 action. The Clippers have also been deliberate in not specifying or ascribing any sort of timeline to Leonard’s recovery. Instead, they are limiting pressure placed on Leonard, who is no stranger to the recovery process, and keeping medical details internal.
Still, Leonard has almost four more months to continue preparing for the 2022-23 NBA season. Expect a steady stream of workout news to come.