Kawhi Leonard, Paul George among veterans sitting out Clippers preseason opener
The Clippers have promised in training camp to take a cautious approach with the workload of their over-30 headliners, a process that began Thursday in the team’s final day of workouts in Las Vegas.
After practicing without limitations through two days of camp, including five-on-five play, Kawhi Leonard was given the day off Thursday during the team’s late-morning practice at Nevada Las Vegas. Point guard John Wall also did not participate in what coach Tyronn Lue said was part of the “process” to keep each fresh.
A knee injury has kept Leonard from playing in an NBA game since June 2021. Wall has played in 40 games during the last three seasons, though a rebuild begun by his previous team, Houston, factored into his sitting out last season, not injuries.
“We’ve got to be smart about the process of him and John and try to go from there,” Lue said.
Wall, Leonard, Paul George and Reggie Jackson will be among the Clippers who will not play in Friday’s preseason opener in Seattle against Maccabi Ra’anana. Those who will play, Lue said, include Terance Mann and Luke Kennard. The Clippers departed for Seattle on Thursday afternoon.
The preseason availability of Leonard and Wall was one of the biggest question marks entering training camp but both earned strong reviews from Lue and teammates through the first two days, which featured multiple workouts that centered around more full-court play than drills and teaching.
The Clippers might be challenged in distributing playing time each game for the current roster throughout the season.
“He looks good,” Norman Powell said of Leonard, his teammate from Toronto’s 2019 championship team. “I think it’ll take a while for him to get fully his footing and step back but he looks good. You can’t tell that he hasn’t played since the Utah series so I’m excited for him to get some games under his belt preseason.”
Lue said that at point guard, one of the starting jobs that is up for grabs, Jackson had played with the first team while Wall had spent time with a unit including Mann, Brandon Boston Jr. and center Moses Brown, the thinking that Wall’s open-court speed and ability to lead to transition buckets might be complemented best by young legs.
“It makes more sense, but he’s been playing great so we’ll see how it works out but with Brandon and [Mann] running the lane and Marcus [Morris Sr.] getting to his spot and John getting downhill into the paint and those guys cutting and getting layups and dunks off their cuts, it just looks really good,” Lue said.
Also on the court Thursday was assistant Jay Larranaga. Lue confirmed that Larranaga will remain on his coaching staff despite interest in recent days from the Boston Celtics in adding him to their staff. Larranaga is entering his second season with the Clippers after spending the previous nine with the Celtics.
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