Kawhi Leonard to sit out Clippers game against Timberwolves

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard drives against Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.
Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard drives against Nuggets guard Jamal Murray during their game on Christmas.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard did not play Tuesday against Minnesota, marking the star’s second consecutive absence after suffering a lacerated mouth last week during a victory in Denver.

Leonard, who received eight stitches because of the injury to the left side of his face, was listed as questionable to play against the Timberwolves before he was ruled out.

“I am not sure when he’s getting the stitches out, but he’s right now just day to day,” coach Tyronn Lue said before tipoff.


Leonard took part in a pregame warmup and was able to practice Monday, Lue has said. The Clippers will play Portland on Wednesday.

Dating to last season, the Clippers are 8-8 when Leonard does not play entering Tuesday’s matchup. Just as during Sunday’s franchise-record 51-point loss against Dallas, the Clippers (2-1) started guard Luke Kennard in Leonard’s place.

Also Tuesday, the Clippers chose not to exercise their option for the third year of center Mfiondu Kabengele’s contract, putting into question how long the 6-foot-10 big man and recent first-round pick will remain with the team that spent a draft pick to move up and acquire his draft rights.

Teams had to decide by Tuesday whether or not to pick up third- and fourth-year contract options. Third-year options are commonly exercised; Kabengele is the lone 2019 first-round pick to not have his picked up. With several high-priced players on the roster, the Clippers are operating under the NBA’s hard cap this season and figure to have little financial flexibility next season as well, when Kabengele was set to earn $2.1 million.

Season-opening wins over the Lakers and Denver were followed by the worst half in NBA history against Dallas. A day later, the Clippers swiftly put a 51-point loss behind them to focus on preparing for Minnesota.

Dec. 28, 2020

The Clippers traded a 2020 first-round pick to Brooklyn to move up and take Kabengele 27th overall in 2019, but opportunities to evaluate him last season were few and far between outside of the G League, where he spent the majority of his rookie year while appearing in 27 games.


Kabengele was stuck behind established centers Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell and then was one of two players the Clippers opted not to bring to the NBA restart near Orlando, Fla., last July.

Now on an expiring contract, Kabengele could be a candidate to be moved as part of a trade. He could also just as easily return to the team next season as a free agent should he display his potential as a floor-stretching shooter and rim protector. Lue and Lawrence Frank, the team’s president, praised Kabengele’s potential and “contagious personality” earlier this month, when training camp began.

Kabengele, the nephew of Hall of Fame center Dikembo Mutombo, averaged 5.3 minutes per game last season and 5.7 minutes in his first three games of this season. He is a career 42% shooter, including 43% on three-pointers.

“He’s very versatile, can shoot the basketball, talks a lot on the defensive end, which we need to get better at and improve at,” Lue said this month. “Just having him around, the way he talks and the way he gets along with everybody on the floor, it’s contagious.”