It was well over a year since we last saw Kawhi Leonard competing in the NBA Playoffs with the Los Angeles Clippers. His sprained ACL was an injury that prevented his team from possibly making an NBA Finals appearance in 2021. However, Leonard is back! Although there were questions concerning his health at the beginning of the year, he has slowly made his way back to All-Star form.
As many are aware, Leonard has done load management over the last four to five years now. Since his controversial injury that happened in 2018 with the San Antonio Spurs, the Toronto Raptors would make a conscious decision to rest Leonard as much as they could to avoid injuries. How did that turn out? Well, Leonard would ultimately deliver a championship to the franchise. As Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019, the organization would look to keep the same formula that allowed Leonard to have a strong postseason the season prior.
As Leonard has entered his fourth season with the Clippers, the time is ticking on bringing a championship to the franchise. Both Leonard and Paul George joined forces as many believe the wing duo would become an unstoppable force. Unfortunately, injuries and playoff disappointments would prevent the team from reaching success. Leonard missed the entire 2021-22 season as he was rehabbing his injury. As he made his return early this season, Leonard would miss 19 of the team's first 24 games as he was still making his way back from injury.
Leonard would make his return in a road matchup with the Charlotte Hornets. While the speculation concerning his health continued to be a big story, he showed that he dusted off the rust with an impressive 16-point performance. The beauty of Leonard’s game is he knows how to control the pace of the game. The game runs at his speed when the ball is in his hands and he knows when to make a play. Later in the contest, Leonard proved his return with a game-winning jumper to cap off a solid performance.
As Leonard is slowly making his way back to All-Star form, the momentum has transitioned to the Clippers’ success as well. Over recent weeks, the team has been able to take care of business against the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, and others. Playing seven games in December, Leonard is averaging 19.1 points along with 7.7 rebounds on 45 percent shooting. The Clippers are currently the fifth seed in the Western Conference and are only 1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets, who are currently the first seed.
As Leonard continues to play at a high level, the Clippers will continue to emerge as a playoff contender in the Western Conference. Leonard and George as a duo can arguably be one of the best wing duos in the NBA when healthy. For the most part of the season, George has been leading the charge for the Clippers this season and has done a good job of keeping them afloat. However, the team is more dangerous when Leonard is healthy and competing at the highest level.