Luke Kennard approached his locker at the Crypto.com Arena Thursday night and, with the exasperated smile of a man tired of waiting, grabbed the black jersey that was dangling from a hanger and shook it from the sides.
It’s been a while since the substitute put on his Clippers jersey. Eighteen days and nine games, to be precise, since a calf injury that first teased him on November 15 flared up again after a Jan. 6 game against Minnesota and has sidelined him ever since.
The wait could soon be over. Kennard and the team leave open the possibility that the reserve, who has shot 46% three-pointers this season, could return as early as Thursday if his recovery continues to show encouraging progress.
“I’ve been doing things on the court and playing live, so I just make sure it’s 100% going,” Kennard told the Times. “I left the last road trip to come back and speed it up a bit more. I’m done. It’s frustrating, it’s annoying, so it’s time to come back.”
Kennard’s return brings meaning beyond just having coach Tyronn Lue once again at his disposal as one of the NBA’s most consistent shooters. It would also allow the coach to make changes to his rotation that he had hinted at in recent weeks – shifts in playing time for the team’s guard corps that Lue said depended on Kennard’s return.
“We have a plan,” Lue said Jan. 8, “but we won’t see it until Luke gets well.”
Kennard traveled with the team on his final three-game trip believing there was a possibility he might return, but left the trip two games later after “still feeling a little bit,” he said, and because he wanted to come onto the pitch more consistently. He dressed for the team’s shootaround ahead of a game against the Lakers on Tuesday morning and said he played three-on-three in live games.
The team next plays San Antonio on Thursday and haven’t ruled out Kennard just yet, with a return likely dependent on Kennard being able to practice to gauge how he’ll respond to full training. The team is still watching Kennard day-to-day, and the guard said it was the team’s call to have him acquitted. But he feels ready, he added.
“I just get comfortable and get those reps back at game speed,” Kennard said. “I’m getting more and more comfortable with it. But it’s going really well. Faster than we thought.”
If Kennard returns as soon as he hopes, the Clippers – who have struggled with injuries all season and have only been able to play four times with their fully available roster – are still not quite complete. Reserve guard John Wall missed his sixth straight game Tuesday with an abdominal injury despite participating in target practice during a portion of the shootaround that was open to the media.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/clippers/story/2023-01-24/clippers-guard-luke-kennard-return Clippers guard Luke Kennard could return as soon as Thursday