Kawhi Leonard 'is cleared for full participation' for training camp in a huge boost for the Clippers, but team will be 'cautious' with star after he missed the WHOLE of last season due to ACL tear
Kawhi Leonard is set to return from injury and play 5-on-5 in training camp next week, as the five-time All-Star has reportedly been cleared for full participation following his 2021 ACL tear.
Leonard has not played a game since June 14, 2021 when he injured his knee in a second-round playoff win vs. the Jazz.
And while the Clippers will apparently take their time ramping the forward back up, Leonard is back in good health according to their president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank.
'He feels great,' Frank said via ESPN.
'His plan is, look, he wants to participate in everything. And I think organizationally, we're going to be cautious. So it will be a step-by-step approach.'
Leonard has an extensive injury history dating back to his days with the Spurs, with recent seasons defined as much by load management as his sky-high talent.
The 31-year-old has not played more than 60 regular season games since 2016-17, but could easily make the Clippers contenders again if he stays healthy.
'When you're dealing with a major injury, you can't predict,' Frank said. 'I know with him, he wants to do everything, but we'll just kind of let's see how he feels each day.
'We have an outstanding medical team, and we're playing the long game with it. So we're not going to get into predictions, what he will do or he won't do.
'... We'll figure out, is that best for his body? One day it may be. The next day, we'll have to reassess. We'll rely on the feedback we get from Kawhi, obviously from the medical team. It's too early to predict. We have time before we need to get there.'
Leonard's expected return is made even more significant by the latest update on his co-star Paul George, who is '100 percent healthy' according to Frank following a torn UCL in his elbow.
George managed to play just 31 games last season as the Clippers failed to make the playoffs in an injury-plagued year.
But things could be looking up for the franchise if their stars can at least stay mostly healthy.
They went 49-23 in the shortened 2019-20 season before bungling a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals, and made the Western Conference Finals the next season before falling to the Suns without Leonard.
He and George will need to avoid serious injury for the Clippers to stand a chance, but there is more than enough talent around them to hold the fort in the event of short-term absences.
John Wall has been signed on a team-friendly deal, Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac will provide physicality and Luke Kennard and Robert Covington should both provide important spacing when in the lineup.
The Clippers have often looked like an elite team when healthy, and a title is surely within reach if Leonard and George can steer clear of the sidelines.