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Kawhi Leonard Injury Update: Clippers in Trouble vs. Mavs?

Kawhi Leonard has an uncertain injury status ahead of the Clippers playoff series.

The Clippers and Mavericks have faced off twice in the playoffs in the last 4 years. Both times the Clippers triumphed over Dallas’ finest. In both series, several pivotal Clippers players who contributed significantly to their victories. However, their most important player, their top guy, was undoubtedly Kawhi Leonard. Ahead of the much-anticipated rubber match series beginning on Saturday, Kawhi’s status for the series is in jeopardy.

Kawhi Leonard Injury Update: Clippers in Trouble vs. Mavs?

Kawhi Injury Details

Last year, the Clippers were eliminated in 5 games by the Phoenix Suns. After the series ended, it was revealed by the team that Leonard had suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee. According to team officials, that injury has been haunting him ever since then. Despite playing 68 games this season, the most in his Clippers tenure, Leonard has been dealing with “very, very stubborn inflammation” all year in his right knee. Clippers team president, Lawrence Frank said the following in regards to Leonard’s injury.

“We’re dealing with inflammation… everything is intact and solid, so, it’s just the inflammation.”

This is mixed news, health-wise. On one hand, nothing is broken or torn, meaning that there is a decent chance Leonard will return. On the other hand, inflammation is unpredictable. It could go down tomorrow or not until the Clippers have been eliminated. The Clippers need to hope to have good luck on their side for Leonard to return in time.

What Leonard Being Out Would Mean for the Team

Needless to say, this is very bad news for the Clippers. Leonard has been the most important player on the team his entire tenure in LA, especially through the turbulence of this season. He has been having a stellar year, averaging 23.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 3.6 APG. Leonard has continued to show his excellent connection with co-star Paul George on the court. Furthermore, he has been building up a new connection with point general James Harden. These connections have helped to fuel a high-powered offense, that ranked 4th in the league.

Additionally, Leonard is crucial for the Clippers defense. He is the best defender on the team and while his main costars George and Harden aren’t awful defenders, they aren’t great defenders either. Leonard needs to be there to patch up holes in the Clippers’ perimeter defense. To make things even worse, their opponents, the Mavericks, are led by perhaps the most dangerous perimeter player in the league, Luka Doncic. The main reason that the Clippers have been favored against the Mavericks is Leonard’s ability to contain Doncic’s supernova scoring. Without him, Doncic is going to go off.

Veteran Trio Needs to Step Up With Kawhi Leonard Out

While Leonard has been the main face of the team, three other players have come to embody the Clippers just as much as him. Those players are the aforementioned George, Harden, and bench leader Russell Westbrook. All three are variations on the same story. All three are excellent MVP-caliber players who have spent the entirety of their careers running into the Steph Curry/LeBron James buzzsaw. They have all the personal accolades you could ever ask for, but not the championship banners to back up those accolades. They all teamed up with a known champion in Leonard to finally secure that legacy-defining ring.

With him out, things have to change. George must turn back time almost ten years to his time in Indiana and assume the position of top star. Harden must shoulder a greater portion of the offensive load than he has in years. Westbrook must return to his days as a valuable starter and triple-double king. This isn’t impossible. In 2021 Leonard went down midway in the second round and George was able to carry the Clippers past the Jazz and into the franchise’s first ever WCF appearance.

It isn’t impossible, but the veteran trio leading LA certainly has their work cut out for them.

The Last Word

For George, Harden, and Westbrook, all of their legacies will forever have question marks unless they can capture the ring. This may be their final real chance at winning the big one and securing their legacies.

With Leonard potentially out, that certainly becomes a much more daunting challenge. However, George, Harden, and Westbrook didn’t rise to become All-Stars and MVPs without a reason. They can do it. They can beat the Mavericks without Leonard. If they do manage it, it would be one of the most improbable victories in years.


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