Kawhi Leonard is poised for a return after the Clippers upgraded their All-Star wing’s status to questionable for Thursday’s game against Detroit.
Leonard has not played since Oct. 23, missing all but two of the team’s first 15 games en route to an 8-7 record.
After undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in July 2021 and missing all of last season, Leonard shouldered high expectations for this season, with the Clippers planning to slowly build his tolerance for his typical workload of around 30 minutes a game. That plan even took unexpected forms when Leonard, who had been in the starting XI for practically nine years, played from the bench in his first two appearances of the season as the Clippers didn’t want to let him sit for long and wanted to pool his minutes played in second, third and fourth quarters.
This strategy was quickly tested when Leonard experienced stiffness in his knee on October 25 following a shooting in Oklahoma City. He watched from the bench that night but then returned to Los Angeles the next day to continue rehab on his knee. Orthopedic surgeons experienced in ACL reconstruction and the recovery process have described “stiffness” as usually synonymous with swelling and have considered it unexpected that swelling should occur 16 months after surgery, as was the case in Leonard’s case.
In the three weeks since Leonard’s absence began, Clippers manager Tyronn Lue said Leonard was frustrated that his health was not allowing him to play. Lue also reiterated that Leonard was making gradual progress. Leonard played five-a-side basketball for the first time on November 11, though Lue warned at the time that while Leonard “looked pretty good,” he still had a long way to go.
And now Leonard may only have hours before his long-awaited return to a team that has struggled to find consistency and identity in his absence.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/clippers/story/2022-11-17/kawhi-leonard-returning-clippers-injury-pistons Kawhi Leonard close to returning from injury for Clippers