Clippers star Kawhi Leonard will return to the lineup tonight, five days after being struck in the face by an accidental elbow from teammate Serge Ibaka, tweets Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Coach Tyronn Lue made the announcement in a pre-game session with the media.
Leonard missed two games with the injury, which caused him to bleed profusely from his mouth and required eight stitches. L.A. split the games, defeating the Timberwolves Tuesday night and losing by 51 points to the Mavericks on Sunday.
A second-team All-NBA selection last season, Leonard is off to another strong start, averaging 23.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals in his first two games.
There’s more injury-related news to pass along:
- The Trail Blazers will face the Clippers tonight without guard Gary Trent Jr., Portland coach Terry Stotts told reporters (Twitter link from Vardon). Trent suffered a strained calf in Monday’s game with the Lakers.
- Rookie swingman Isaac Okoro didn’t travel with the Cavaliers as they start a six-game road trip, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The fifth pick in this year’s draft suffered a sprained left foot in Saturday’s game and was recently placed into the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol. The league announced today that there have been no new positive tests since December 24, so Fedor believes Okoro likely came in contact with someone who tested positive, which limits his ability to travel. The Cavs hope he can join them before the trip ends January 9.
- Nets coach Steve Nash said Nicolas Claxton is “steadily improving,” but remains “weeks away” from playing, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. The second-year center is dealing with tendinopathy in his right knee and hasn’t played yet this season.
- Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari had to leave tonight’s game with a sprained ankle, according to Andrews (Twitter link). It was his first game since suffering a contusion in his left foot in last week’s season opener.