Clippers will be cautious with recovering Kawhi Leonard

Fifteen months later Kawhi Leonard last played in an NBA game, the Clippers can see his return coming soon.

The NBA All-Star forward who Enduring surgery in July 2021 to repair an injured anterior cruciate ligament has yet to play 5-on-5 basketball but was cleared to do so during preseason and “feels great”, the club president says basketball operations team Lawrence Frank. He added that Leonard’s recovery has been “very, very encouraging” – and that the team will continue to be careful with his workload once he is back on the court for good.

Speaking at the team’s training facility on Thursday morning, Frank did not offer details on Leonard’s availability during training camp, which begins Tuesday in Las Vegas, saying “we’re not going to enter into predictions of what he will or will not do.”

The team’s first of four pre-season games will take place in September. 30 in Seattle. Still, Frank, amid praise for Leonard’s discipline during the rehabilitation process, said Leonard had played in controlled environments for a long time and was trending toward a return to the field.

“His plan is, listen, he wants to be in on everything, and I think… organizationally, we’re going to be careful. So it’s going to be a step-by-step approach,” he said.

“He arrives at 7 a.m. and just from the moment he enters the building until the moment he leaves, several times four or five hours later, everything is useful work, whether it’s in the bathroom show, whether it’s on the ground, whether it’s a film study. You know, Kawhi is all about one thing, and so, you know, a lot of encouraging news. And also, again, as an organization, we know what the big picture is. We know what our goal is, and we will be very careful and take a methodical approach.”

As with Leonard, the Clippers are playing what Frank called the long game with a number of their key players in rotation as they enter a season below championship expectations. Paul George, Leonard’s All-Star running mate who missed most of last season with a sprained elbow ligament, is fully healthy, Frank said.

George, guard Reggie Jackson and John Wall, and forward Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum are also all in their 30s, and with a record 61 games before the All-Star break, the Clippers have prioritized building depth roster this offseason to allow its players to rest throughout the season.

“We want our guys to be able to be at their best when their best is needed, which is, you know, April, May and June,” Frank said. “So to be able to give some of these heavy lifters [rest] where they’re not overloaded at the time, but there’s enough continuity that there’s pace there.