Clippers still unsure if Kawhi Leonard will play Game 1: ‘Very unpredictable’

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard controls the ball during a game against the Lakers in November.
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard controls the ball during a game against the Lakers in November. Leonard is listed as questionable for Game 1 of the Clippers’ playoff series with the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Day 3 of the continuing injury update regarding Kawhi Leonard brought in Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank to explain more details and to tell the media that his All-Star forward will be listed as “questionable” for Game 1 of the playoffs Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks.

Leonard, who missed the last eight games of the season, has had swelling in the knee that has prevented him from participating in full-contact practice for the Clippers’ first-round series.

“Kawhi has been dealing with inflammation for almost three weeks in his right knee,” Frank said before practice Thursday. “He’s doing everything. Our medical staff is doing everything to get the inflammation down so he can play. Progress has been made, but more progress needs [to be made]. The inflammation needs to continue to reduce so he can do functional basketball movements.”


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Frank said it’s impossible to predict when the inflammation would subside to allow Leonard to practice fully and play in the seven-game series.

“The one thing I would share with you is that inflammation is unpredictable,” Frank said. “So, we’d love to have a crystal ball and Kawhi would love to have a crystal ball and know exactly on this day, but you just control what you can control and hopefully the inflammation reduces in a short amount of time and he’s back on the court. That’s the goal.”

Frank was asked about a report that said Leonard got an injection in his knee to reduce the inflammation.

“Yeah, we don’t comment on any specific treatments, obviously,” Frank said. “What I’d share with you is he’s doing everything he can and we’re doing everything we can medically. But specific treatments, regardless of the player, we would never comment on it.

“He’ll be questionable for Sunday. I’m trying to be as transparent as possible. It is just very unpredictable. So, if things continue to get better and better, there’s a chance. So we’ll be hopeful.”

Leonard played in the Clippers’ first two playoff games last season against the Phoenix Suns, but he missed the rest of that series with what eventually was announced as a torn meniscus in his right knee.


Frank was asked if that knee injury is related to the current one.

“Different,” he said. “Everything structurally is in a really, really good place. So this is just, like I said, it’s just some very, very stubborn inflammation.”

Los Angeles, CA - January 08: Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, #2, takes control of a loose ball.
Kawhi Leonard takes control of a loose ball in front of Phoenix Suns guard Bradley Beal and forward Josh Okogie during a game in January.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Leonard last played March 31 at Charlotte. When the Clippers arrived in Sacramento for the next game, he complained about his knee being sore. He hasn’t played since, now going on about three weeks.

Frank said they are taking it slowly with Leonard to make sure the knee is sound.

“You get through the steps of where the swelling is at an acceptable level and then you start the ramp up,” Frank said. “You do some exercises in the performance room, you start doing court work and then where you get to a point where you’re able to go full-speed, contact-type work.”

The Clippers will take Friday off and then have a light practice Saturday before Sunday’s 12:30 p.m. game at Arena.

So, Frank was asked, is it possible for Leonard to be healthy enough to play with so much limited practice?


“Yeah, it’s Thursday though, right?” Frank said. “So, in terms of based on where we’re heading, is it possible he could play? Sure, it’s possible. It’s Thursday. And like I said, with each day we’ll know more and more …

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“I think with it is you start with on-court work and then you continue to build up on it and you get to a point where both from first Kawhi’s standpoint and then from a medical standpoint, we are comfortable where he can play in a high-level playoff game that we all know the intensity level that’s required in those games.”

Leonard played 68 games this season, leading the Clippers in scoring by averaging 23.7 points per game.

He averaged 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists and shot 52.5% from the field and 41.7% from three-point range.

Frank was asked how Leonard is dealing with the setback.

“Oh, he’s a very, very strong-minded guy,” Frank said.

“... So, he just channels his energy, all his energy into what he can control and puts 24/7 into whatever he can do to help reduce the inflammation.”