All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard was eager to return to the Los Angeles Clippers after missing all of last season while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, however, he might’ve rushed back too soon. The Clippers will keep Leonard out of the lineup for an indefinite amount of time until he’s filly recovered from his right knee injury.
The Clippers played ten games this season, but Leonard appeared in just two. He has not suited up in two weeks due to soreness and stiffness in his right knee. The Clippers are 5-5 this season, but only 3-4 since Leonard’s last game.
There’s really not a timeframe of when he’s going to be back,” said Clippers head coach Ty Lue. “He’s progressing and getting better, so that’s the most important thing.”
Leonard suffered a partially torn ACL in his right knee during the 2021 NBA playoffs against the Utah Jazz. He underwent reconstructive knee surgery in the summer of 2021, and he missed all of the 2021-22 season.
Lue: Unknown Timetable with Leonard
In the season-opener against the Lakers, Leonard scored 14 points and added seven rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. In an effort to keep Leonard fresh, he sat out the first leg of back-to-back games and missed the second game of the season. He last played against the Phoenix Suns two weeks ago scoring 11 points in 21 minutes.
We knew coming off an ACL it wasn’t going to be a straight line,” added Lue. “We talked about it before the season. We’re just going to follow the lead of our medical staff. We got to be smart about the situation.”
In his two appearances this season, Leonard averages 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. That’s way off from the 25.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game he averaged in his first two full seasons with the Clippers.
Leonard looked rusty against the Lakers and Suns, which was expected after he missed all of last season. He shot 16.7% from 3-point range so far, which was alarming considering he’s a career 38.7% shooter from deep.
Clippers Can’t Score
With Leonard missing eight games, the Clippers are the lowest-scoring team in the NBA averaging 102.3 points per game. Their clampdown defense is keeping them in games, and the sole reason they’re 5-5. They allow just 106.6 points per game for the fourth-best scoring defense in the NBA.
If the Clippers expect to contend for an NBA championship, they’ll need Leonard back at full strength and dropping 25-plus points per game.
Paul George leads the Clippers averaging 24.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. George missed 51 games last season with an elbow injury, but bounced back without any lingering problems. Without Leonard for an unknown amount of time, Lue and the Clippers will rely heavily on George in crunch time.
I talked to Kahwi and said, ‘We got you,’” George told The Athletic. “‘Don’t worry about all this. I got you.’”
The Clippers added former #1 pick John Wall in the offseason to boost their bench scoring. Wall averages 12.8 points and 4.9 assists per game with the Clippers, but on a minutes restriction and not playing in back-to-back games.
Long-range bombing is a problem for the Clippers across the board. They’re ranked 25 out of 30 teams in 3-point shooting averaging 32% from beyond the arc. Wall is struggling from 3-point range shooting a career-low 21.4%.
Public Backed the Clippers in Offseason
With a 5-5 record, the Clippers are ranked #8 in the Western Conference. The streaky Clippers lost four games in a row before they went on a three-game winning streak last week. The Jazz beat the Clippers on Sunday evening to end their three-win surge.
With Leonard expected to return to full health this season, the Clippers were a popular pick to win the 2023 NBA championship. During the preseason, the Clippers were one of three co-favorites at DraftKings to win the title at +600 odds. The defending-champion Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics, who were the runner-up at the 2022 NBA Finals, also had the same odds as the Clippers.
The Milwaukee Bucks have yet to a lose a game after a 9-0 start. The Bucks are the consensus betting favorite to win the championship at +550 odds over at DraftKings. The Celtics are now +600 odds to win the title, followed by the Warriors at +650, and the Clippers at +700.
A couple of weeks into the season, bettors stepped back from betting the Clippers after their slow start. The Clippers failed to live up to preseason expectations, and posted a 3-7 record against the spread.
NBA totals bettors jumped out to a profitable season fading the Clippers with Leonard making short stints in just two games. The under points total is 9-1 in Clippers’ games this season.
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