While he’s been injured plenty the past several years, Kawhi Leonard is healthy and good to go for the Los Angeles Clippers this fall.
Leonard said ahead of practice Tuesday, just one day before they tip off the season against the Portland Trail Blazers, that his ACL injury and meniscus injury are both behind him.
"I feel good and I'm ready to go," Leonard said, via ESPN. "I think last year came off of ACL, so pretty much it's like a two-year process. Talking to guys [who suffered ACL injuries] and seeing when they do start feeling good or just trusting your knee, it's just something that you feel and I mean one day just turns around for you. So it wasn't really nothing too different."
Leonard first underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in 2021. He missed the entire 2021-22 season recovering, but returned for 52 games last season for the Clippers. He was limited last year due to knee soreness and a sprained ankle, and then he was knocked out of the playoffs early due to a meniscus injury.
Leonard then underwent another surgery to clean up his knee injury in June.
Leonard averaged 23.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season, which was his lowest output since his final season with the Spurs in 2017-18, which was limited to just nine games due to injury.
“It’s about how your overall body’s feeling at the time, and I felt like I was still trying to get through some humps and just get healthy,” Leonard said of last season, via ESPN. “But I was able to show fans or other players in the league and myself that I was able to play at a high level … I was just trying to get healthy, just trying to move, and I knew the numbers would come. I wasn’t really focused on that at the time.”
The Clippers went 44-38 last season and made the playoffs, but fell in the first round to the Suns. They will still be shorthanded Wednesday night at Crypto.com Arena, as both Terance Mann and Bones Hyland are dealing with ankle injuries.
While he knows it will take more than a healthy Leonard to make a meaningful run in the Western Conference this season, head coach Ty Lue is just happy to have Leonard at full strength. In his four seasons leading the organization, this is the first time he’s had that to kick off a campaign.
“It’s different when you have restrictions. You can’t play live the whole time, you can’t go through all the execution plays you want to go through, and so it’s a big difference,” Lue said. “And so like I said, with him and [Paul George] and [Russell Westbrook] coming in this year, just setting the tone early in training camp, all the conditioning, with all the running we did, like, no complaining and we just did it. And so that was our mindset coming into it.
"We want to get out to a good start this season. We don't want to ease into the season."