With the Los Angeles Clippers officially eliminated from the playoffs after losing 136-130 to the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 on Tuesday night, more information about Kawhi Leonard’s knee injury has come to light. The All-Star forward reportedly suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee sometime during the series against the Suns, according to The Athletic.
Leonard had missed the last three games of LA’s first round with what the Clippers classified as a right knee sprain. However, with the Clippers’ season over, it has now been revealed that the injury was more serious.
This is just brutal news for Leonard, who also suffered a torn ACL in the same knee in the 2021 playoffs. The right knee is a constant source of injury for the two-time NBA champion, and it has derailed any sense of consistency since joining the Clippers.
The timeline for Leonard’s return is unclear at this point and will likely depend on whether or not he needs surgery to repair the meniscus. Leonard is reportedly assess his rehabilitation optionsaccording to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report.
While no injury is ideal, now, in April, it will give him plenty of time to recover before the start of the 2023/24 season. Given Leonard’s long injury history, the latter will also likely increase the likelihood of him continuing a tax management schedule next season. Since his time with the Raptors, Leonard has rarely played in back-to-back games. In fact, he took part in his first back-to-back matches in early April for the first time since April 2021.
Injuries have plagued the Clippers since the team signed both Leonard and Paul George in the summer of 2019. Despite numerous regular-season successes since then, injuries to one or both have hampered LA’s ability to contend for a championship. George missed this entire postseason with a sprained knee, and before that, the last time these two played a full postseason together was during the 2020 playoff bubble, where the Clippers lost to the Denver Nuggets in the second round.
With minimal postseason success since the pairing between Leonard and George, next season will be increasingly important for the Clippers. The 2023-2024 season will be the last year for both George and Leonard before they can waive their player options for the 2024-25 season. It puts a very real timeline on LA’s championship window, and if this team doesn’t succeed next year, it raises a lot of questions for Leonard and George, as well as for the Clippers going forward.