Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard out against Mavericks and possibly longer

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is defended by Denver Nuggets guards Jamal Murray and PJ Dozier.
Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, is defended by Denver Nuggets guards Jamal Murray, center, and PJ Dozier during the second half Friday in Denver.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

A lacerated mouth suffered during a Christmas victory in Denver will cause Clippers star Kawhi Leonard to miss Sunday’s game against Dallas and his availability for games later this week remains unclear.

Coach Ty Lue didn’t offer a potential timetable for Leonard’s return when asked before tipoff Sunday.

“Hopefully he’s fine, I’m not sure yet,” Lue said.

Eight stitches were required to close a laceration on the left side of Leonard’s face Friday in Denver after the forward was accidentally elbowed by teammate Serge Ibaka while going for a rebound. Lue said after that game that he believed Leonard would be “fine” and teammates who had seen Leonard in the locker room described him in better condition than they initially feared.

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is accompanied by two men off the court.
Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is accompanied off the court during the second half against the Denver Nuggets on Friday in Denver.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Two hours before tipoff Sunday, Leonard watched teammates warm up from the baseline inside Staples Center, a ball under one arm, but did not take part himself before leaving the court.

Nicolas Batum believes the Clippers’ resolve in wins over the Lakers and Nuggets shows the team is mentally tougher than it might have been last season.

Dec. 26, 2020

The Clippers (2-0) will start reserve guard Luke Kennard in place of Leonard against the Mavericks (0-2), Lue said.

Leonard had averaged 23.5 points, 5.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds on 45% shooting, including 25% shooting from three-point range, through his first two games, while playing faster and more physical after an offseason where he was healthy enough to train.

“He’s a great player so it’s a break, I guess, if you look at it from a competitive standpoint but they’re very deep,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “With where we’re at and how we’ve had some real inconsistencies over the first two games we’ve got to look at this like, regardless of who’s out there, we have to jump into it with full force.”