Kawhi Leonard practices with Clippers, but status for Game 1 is unclear

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard sits on the bench in street clothes.
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard sat out eight consecutive games at the end of the regular season and it’s unclear if he’ll be ready to play in the first-round playoff series opener Sunday.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

It’s the same old song when it comes to Kawhi Leonard and his availability for the Clippers when they meet the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs on Sunday at Arena.

It remains uncertain — a mystery even — if Leonard will play in the first game of the best-of-seven series.

He sat out the last eight games of the regular season because of right knee inflammation.

The Clippers had their first practice Tuesday in preparation for the Mavericks, leaving reporters to ask coach Tyronn Lue if Leonard would fully practice.


“No, not fully,” Lue said. “But he’s going to be a part of practice.”

Lue was asked how much Leonard could participate.

“Um, he’s going to do a quarter of the practice,” Lue said.

Is it because Leonard hasn’t played in an NBA game since March 31?

“Yeah, just bring him along slowly,” Lue said.

With the fourth seed in the playoffs locked up, the big question for the Clippers will be if Kawhi Leonard is ready for first-round series vs. Dallas.

April 14, 2024

By the time Sunday arrives, Leonard will have sat out three weeks of game action. So, Lue was asked, if this was about ramping things up for Leonard?

“Yes,” Lue said.

Then came the big question: Will that ramp-up result in Leonard playing Sunday against the Mavericks and their sensational backcourt of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving?

“We’ll see,” Lue said.

Leonard is the Clippers’ best player, has won two NBA championships — one with San Antonio (2014) and the other with Toronto (2019) — and his presence will be needed to get past the improved Mavericks.

Leonard averaged 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 68 games this season. He shot 52.5% from the field and 41.7% from three-point range.

He was at his best in the playoffs with Toronto, averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists while earning the Finals’ most valuable player award in 2019.

He was great for the Clippers last season in the playoffs, averaging 34.5 points. But Leonard played in only two games, unable to finish the series against the Phoenix Suns because of a meniscus tear in his right knee.


The Clippers will need a healthy Leonard after two of his teammates, Paul George and James Harden, recently questioned the team’s identity in less than a week’s time.

When George and Harden did that, Lue didn’t take kindly to their remarks.

“Yeah, we found it,” Lue said of an identity.

And what is it?

“Win,” Lue responded.

How do you go about winning?

“Play hard,” Lue said. “Play hard every position. Physicality defensively. Offensively, space and play with pace, get into our sets quicker and the last seven out of eight games we’ve shown what we can do.”

Lue was asked if he got that point across to his players after he told reporters last month that their identity was, “We’re soft.”

“What do you think?” Lue responded.

Considering the Clippers won seven of eight games after those comments, the answer was yes.

“Thank you,” Lue said, smiling.

Leonard reportedly commits to U.S.

Leonard is part of a star-studded roster the Americans have assembled for the Paris Games.

USA Basketball has received confirmations from 12 players, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Jrue Holiday, Tyrese Haliburton and Anthony Edwards — that they will accept invitations to be on the Olympic roster, the Associated Press reported.

Of the 12 commits, seven finished the season ranked among the top 15 scorers. James is the all-time scoring leader, Curry the all-time leader in three-pointers and 10 were All-Stars. James will seek a fourth medal, after winning bronze in 2004 and golds in 2008 and 2012.


Associated Press contributed to this report.