May 24, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Clippers' Kawhi Leonard says knee 'didn't respond' as hoped; The situation is up in the air

Clippers' Kawhi Leonard says knee 'didn't respond' as hoped;  The situation is up in the air

DALLAS — Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard said inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee did not respond the way he had hoped after Game 2, and after missing 25 minutes in Friday's 101-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Leonard was put in for Sunday's game. Game 4 in question.

Leonard had nine points and nine rebounds but didn't look like himself in Game 3 at American Airlines Center. With limited players, the Clippers have fallen apart and now trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Leonard was asked if he would be able to play Sunday afternoon with less than 48 hours between Games 3 and 4.

“Yes,” Leonard said. “For now, I'll see [how it feels] tomorrow. But I want to play.”

Leonard missed 23 days with inflammation in his right knee and missed the final eight games of the regular season and Game 1 of the first-round series against Dallas.

He logged 35 minutes in his return on Tuesday, finishing with 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals in a 96-93 loss at Los Angeles in Game 2.

Head coach Ty Lue said Thursday that Leonard came out of Game 2 feeling good. But Leonard admitted after Game 3 that his knee “didn't respond the way we wanted” after his return.

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“But we’ll make it right,” Leonard said. “Time will tell. But we're doing all the right things.”

Lawrence Frank, the Clippers' president of basketball operations, described the inflammation as “unpredictable” and “stubborn.”

Leonard tore his ACL in the second round of 2021. He then tore his meniscus in the first round of the postseason finale against Phoenix, missing the final three games of the five-game series.

Frank said the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in the knee that Leonard surgically repaired were structurally sound but inflammation was an issue.

On Friday night, Leonard delivered two touchdowns in the second half, including one on an alley-oop. But there were times when he seemed to lack his usual burst on the field. He played just 10 minutes in the first half and sat 3:01 of the second quarter.

Lue said he doesn't think Leonard feels anything new due to his injury, but the team is trying to deal with the matter.

Leonard was asked if the inflammation had returned.

“It was pretty good,” Leonard said. “The response in the first game was not the way we wanted. Tonight it was either playing limited minutes or not playing. I wanted to be on the floor to help the team and these are the results.”

“It's frustrating that this happened to me this late in the season, but we're going to keep moving forward. We're going to do the right thing.”

With Leonard unable to play his usual minutes and Paul George in foul trouble, Lue was forced to adjust his rotation and play James Harden (21 points, 5 assists) for 44 minutes.

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George said the team can see how hard Leonard is trying to come back from the knee injury.

“We all want the best for him,” said George, who was limited to seven points due to a foul trouble. He added: “He is struggling because he is not able to be 100% ready to be here for us, but we have to cover things up and appreciate what he has given us.”

“He's still trying to suit us up and give us everything he can. I definitely feel for him because he knows he's been working hard and again to get to this point where we want to be very successful.” [playoff] He can't be 100% now.”