Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard Cleared, But Clippers Will Remain Cautious

Kawhi Leonard, who missed all of last season for the Clippers while recovering from a torn ACL, has been cleared to be a full five-on-five participant in next week’s training camp, but president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank says the team will remain cautious with its star forward, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

He feels great,” Frank said at the team’s practice facility. “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.”

He is cleared.” Frank later added. “For him, he’ll say, look, I want to do everything. Again, we’ll be very cautious in the approach.”

Frank said it’s a balancing act between allowing Leonard to compete and preserving his health.

There’s constant communication with seeing where he’s at,” Frank said, per Mark Medina of NBA.com. “The toughest thing is when a guy really, really wants to go ahead and try to do everything. You just assess it and just have those conversations. What everyone can agree on is, ‘What is the goal? So, what’s the best way to get there?’ If it’s close, you exercise some caution when you’re coming back from a serious injury like this.”

According to Youngmisuk, Frank was noncommittal when asked whether Leonard would play in preseason games, saying the team plans to take it one day at a time.

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.”

Frank also says Paul George‘s right elbow is fully healed, and the star forward is developing into more of a leader. George missed three months with a torn UCL in 2021/22 prior to returning at the end of the season.

His elbow is 100 percent healthy,” Frank said, per Youngmisuk. “Paul has had an extremely purposeful, driven, and very productive off-season, in that his consistency of training has been off the charts. Plus, he continues to take more and more of an ownership and leadership role. You know, he had a lot to do with getting John Wall to come here.”

It won’t just be Leonard that the team is cautious with. The Clippers have championship aspirations and plan to rely on their depth, so periodic rest could be a store for a number of veterans throughout the season, as Andrew Grief of The Los Angeles Times relays.

We want our guys to be able to be at their best when their best is needed, which is, you know, April, May and June,” Frank said. “So to be able to give some of those heavy load carriers [rest] where they’re not overtaxed at that time, yet there’s enough continuity that there’s rhythm there.”

John Wall Discusses Clippers, Leonard, George, Jackson

New Clippers addition John Wall sat down with Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (YouTube video link) to discuss his opportunity with what could be one of the deepest teams in the NBA next season, led by All-NBA swingmen Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Wall, a five-time All-Star with the Wizards before a series of lower body injuries limited his availability, agreed to sit out the entire 2021/22 season for the Rockets as Houston prioritized developing younger backcourt talent. After agreeing to a buyout, Wall signed a two-year, $13.2MM deal with the Clippers as an unrestricted free agent.

“I think they’re just a first-class organization, great teammates over here,” Wall said of joining L.A. this summer. “I just feel like they have a great culture… Also not having to be a Batman every night, having an opportunity to play with other players where I can take a backseat, and develop my game but also just help those guys as much as possible.”

Here are more highlights from their conversation:

  • Wall discussed how he’ll adapt his game as a secondary player in Los Angeles after being one of the top two offensive options, alongside shooting guard Bradley Beal, for the majority of his NBA career while with the Wizards. “I know I’m still a talented player,” Wall said. “I know all the things that I’ve worked on, especially being able to knock down catch-and-shoot shots because I probably won’t have the ball in my hands as much (as on past teams). But at the same time they still want me to be myself, be aggressive, be able to break down the defense for (Leonard and George). I think… sometimes in the fourth quarter a lot of teams (are) keyed in on Kawhi and Paul George. I think that’s an opportunity for me to excel.”
  • “Still can’t believe it,” Wall said of his chance to play with two All-NBA wings, alongside whom he anticipates leaning into his abilities as a facilitator. “I can’t wait till I have the opportunity to be on the floor with those guys. I’ve just always been a past-first point guard… But my best attribute is being able to pass the ball.”
  • When asked about his expected training camp competition with incumbent Clipper Reggie Jackson for dibs on the starting point guard role with Los Angeles next season, Wall was diplomatic. “I’m a competitor like he’s a competitor,” Wall began. “We’re two very talented players. He’s been great for this team the last couple of years… We’re just going to battle it out.” Jackson will be on the last season of a two-year, $22MM contract he signed to stick with the Clippers through 2023.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Collison, Monk, Leonard, Wall

The Lakers‘ five additions in free agency were targeted for speed, defense and shooting, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. New head coach Darvin Ham is determined to bring a fresh approach to a team that finished in the bottom third of the league in both offensive and defensive rating last season. All five players who were introduced at today’s press conference talked about how they will blend into that system.

“I think I can fit on any team,” said former Warrior Juan Toscano-Anderson. “I think I can guard one through five. I’ll do whatever it takes to win, and when I say whatever, I mean it. I’ll dive over scorer’s tables. I’ll rebound. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Along with a renewed emphasis on defense, L.A. hopes its free agency moves will provide increased spacing for its star players. Ex-Spur Lonnie Walker is coming off a season where he connected at just 31.4% from three-point range, but he vows to be better.

“Last year, you can look at the percentages, but I kid you not: Leave me open, we’re going to see what’s happening,” Walker said. “I’m honing into what I got to get better on, and I’m not just strengthening my weakness but I’m strengthening my strengths as well. So, I’m ready to show everyone what I’m about.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Free agent point guard Darren Collison worked out for the Lakers again today, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Collison, who was at a mini-camp with the team last month, is interested in returning to the NBA at age 34.
  • Malik Monk‘s long friendship with De’Aaron Fox played an important role in his decision to sign with the Kings, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Monk and Fox have been friends since high school and they were backcourt partners at Kentucky. “They speak all the time,” a source told Anderson. “They’re still in their college group chat, so they speak every day. Those guys are real brothers, so I’m excited for them both.”
  • Clippers star Kawhi Leonard hasn’t been cleared to play 5-on-5, but he continues to make progress in his return from an ACL injury, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk said on “NBA Today” (video link). Newly signed John Wall will compete with Reggie Jackson for the starting point guard spot, Youngmisuk adds.

L.A. Notes: Clippers’ Draft, Leonard, Kennard, Christie, Westbrook

The Clippers are emphasizing continuity with their roster, which is why they passed on making a draft-night trade for the first time in seven years, writes Mark Medina of NBA.com. The team’s quiet draft was influenced by its two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who are collaborating with the front office on personnel moves.

“They are great partners. There’s a lot of give and take and talking,” president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said. “They have great insight. They passionately care. They care about the type of people that are in the locker room. They look for people who work, have great habits, are pros, can contribute to winning and are great in the locker room. Yet at the same time, they are very respectful that at the end of the day it’s our job to make the decision. But their opinions are very, very valuable.”

Frank also offered a medical update on Leonard, who missed the entire season after suffering an ACL injury during the 2021 playoffs. The team is encouraged by Leonard’s progress and expects him to be ready for the start of next season.

“He continues to do great,” Frank said. “He’s maniacal in his work ethic. It’s fun to see. I’m glad we can afford the light bill because he’s putting in the hours.”

There’s more NBA news from Los Angeles:

  • Frank dismissed rumors that the Clippers are trying to trade Luke Kennard, Medina adds. Frank said there’s “zero truth” to the report, noting that Kennard is coming off an “unbelievable season” in which he led the league in three-point percentage.
  • The Lakers were excited to land Michigan State’s Max Christie after trading into the second round, per Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times“It’s very rare to have a consensus pick,” general manager Rob Pelinka said. “Maybe at No. 1 you can kind of get a room full of scouts and get a consensus pick. But once you get to 35, there’s just so many varying opinions. But very uniquely on this night — it doesn’t happen all the time — but Max was a consensus pick of all the scouts and all the front-office people.” Pelinka believes Christie could have been selected in the top 15 or 20 next year if he had returned to school.
  • Pelinka and new coach Darvin Ham have met with Russell Westbrook to set parameters for next season, Medina writes in a separate story. Westbrook became a lightning rod for criticism after being acquired from the Wizards last summer. “We’ve been honest about how we think he fits with this team and what we expect of him next year if he decides to opt in and be here,” Pelinka said of Westbrook, who hasn’t yet officially exercised his $47MM player option for next season. “He’s ready to embrace the philosophy of defense first as well. He made that clear to Darvin and me if he chooses to come back.”

Clippers’ Lawrence Frank Talks Roster, Offseason, More

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday for his annual postseason press conference, Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said the team will look to upgrade the roster this summer after a disappointing end to 2021/22, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group.

We’re going to have to look at areas of improvement,” Frank said. “We want to make sure that we maximize our opportunities and be able to do something that’s never been done in the history of this organization.”

The Clippers failed to advance to the playoffs after losing both of their play-in tournament games, partly due to the season-long absence of Kawhi Leonard (ACL recovery) and Paul George‘s elbow injury (as well as his positive COVID-19 result the day of the second play-in loss). Frank said the team’s inability to win a championship with its star wings has shown “how fragile the difference between winning and losing is,” but he’ll use the playoff absence as “fuel for a great offseason,” per Swanson.

Frank said he’s encouraged by Leonard’s recovery progress, but declined to give any timetables for a potential return.

Here’s more from Frank’s press conference, courtesy of Swanson:

  • L.A. holds the Bird rights to unrestricted free agent Robert Covington, who recently said he was intrigued by the idea of playing with Leonard and George. Frank said he was happy to hear that, because the team would like to bring him back. “RoCo was very, very good for us. I’m excited to hear that he likes it here. We look forward and we’d like to be able to keep him here.”
  • Isaiah Hartenstein is also a free agent, but the Clips only holds his Non-Bird rights. The big man surpassed Frank’s expectations this season. “We actually recruited Isaiah … we put a lot of effort into it,” said Frank, who noted Hartenstein’s qualities, including his play-making, paint protection, floater and chemistry with the team. “Now, did we think he was going to be able to deliver at this high a level? No.”
  • From a developmental perspective, the Frank said the season was a great success, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “From a process standpoint [it] went better than expected,” Frank said, calling the development of the team’s young players a “huge silver lining.”
  • League sources tell Greif the team will look to add a point guard this summer, but Frank was coy when asked about the possibility. “The game now is played a little bit differently, there are some obviously elite point guards in the league, but a lot of teams are playing through their wings like we do,” Frank said. “So I look at it as do we have enough play initiators between Kawhi, PG, Norm [Norman Powell], Reggie [Jackson], Terance [Mann]? I don’t know; we’ll look at it. We’re not averse to it, but we’ll continue to evaluate and see if we have to address it.”
  • Frank is hopeful that Jason Preston (foot surgery) and Jay Scrubb (turf toe surgery) will be ready for Summer League, Greif relays.

Clippers Notes: Leonard, George, Covington, Batum, Hartenstein, Outlook

The Clippers were a much more optimistic bunch than most teams after getting eliminated from playoff contention, Jim Alexander of the Orange County Register writes. That’s due to the return of perennial All-Star Kawhi Leonard from his knee injury, plus the expectation that Paul George will have better injury luck next season.

In addition to being out for most of the season due to an elbow injury, George missed Friday’s play-in tournament loss to New Orleans after testing positive for COVID-19.

We get our main guys back. I mean, we can be dangerous,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think when you get Kawhi and PG back healthy, Norm (Powell for) a full season … this team can be pretty special. But it’s all about health. Our young guys (Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, (Luke) Kennard, Ivica Zubac), all those guys have (had) a chance to develop and play meaningful games. They played big for us. Our veteran guys, we already talked about what Marcus (Morris), Nico (Batum), Reggie (Jackson) have brought to this team. We got to get back, get back to the drawing board. But I’m very excited for this group, the guys coming back.”

We have more on the Clippers:

  • Robert Covington will be an unrestricted free agent this summer but the prospect of playing with Leonard and George is enticing to him, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets“The way that we played tonight when we went small, imagine PG and Kawhi in that lineup,’ he said. “That’s a lot of versatility … Once them guys come back next year, if I’m here, I’m really looking forward to that.”
  • By trading for Covington, the Clippers also acquired his Bird rights, which will allow them to exceed the salary cap and luxury tux to retain him, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes in his guide to the team’s offseason. They don’t have a first-rounder due to the George trade but they will have two trade exceptions of $9.7MM and $8.3MM, plus the taxpayer mid-level exception of $6.3MM, to make roster upgrades.
  • Another potential decision is whether to re-sign Batum if he declines his $3.3MM option, Yossi Gozlan of Hoops Hype notes in his offseason preview. They hold Non-Bird rights on another unrestricted free agent, Isaiah Hartenstein. Gozlan also breaks down the remaining salary due to each player on the roster.
  • After blowing two chances to make the playoffs, the Clippers are in typical wait-til-next-year mode, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times opines. Despite the rosy outlook, the Clippers can’t guarantee that Leonard will regain his pre-injury form, that the chemistry will be the same or that someone else won’t get hurt.

Pacific Notes: Poole, Thompson, S. Johnson, Kawhi, Kaminsky

Warriors veteran Andre Iguodala recently compared two third-year players, former teammate Tyler Herro and current teammate Jordan Poole, and thinks both players could be in for big paydays on their next contracts.

It’s funny. I’m hearing Tyler is looking at a max contract. I’m laughing at Jordan, like, it’s the same thing,” Iguodala said (video link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic).

As third-year former first-round pick, Poole is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer, though Golden State might opt to wait until after the 2022/23 season to offer him a new deal in order to maintain financial flexibility. He’d be a restricted free agent at that point.

Poole is having a breakout season for the Warriors, averaging 18.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists on .454/.368/.920 shooting (.602 true) through 74 games (30 minutes per night). He’s been outstanding since the beginning of March, averaging 25.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists on .492/.437/.910 shooting in the past 19 games.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors guard Klay Thompson will miss Saturday’s game at San Antonio for precautionary reasons, writes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. Thompson has typically been held out of the second game of back-to-backs, but coach Steve Kerr decided to switch things up and rest him on the first night this time instead. Thompson has been red-hot lately, scoring a combined 69 points over his past two games.
  • After Friday’s win over the Thunder, forward Stanley Johnson said he hopes the Lakers exercise their team option to retain him for next season, according to team beat reporter Mike Trudell (Twitter link). “Hopefully I’ve played well enough that they would take me back,” Johnson said.
  • Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said on Friday that Kawhi Leonard hasn’t advanced past individual workouts yet, as Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times relays (via Twitter). Leonard has missed the entire season after suffering a torn ACL last June.
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams said “it was tough decision for us” to part with Frank Kaminsky, who was released on Thursday. “He meant a lot to us, and me personally, I’m grateful for everything he did for us. I just wish he could’ve gone on with us, but these are tough decisions that we have to make. The cool part was, he totally understood and it just says a lot about who he is as a person,” Williams said (video link from Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

Paul George Shows Progress In Recovery From Elbow Injury

Paul George is progressing in his rehab and Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he’s willing to play George, Kawhi Leonard or Norman Powell when they’re ready, even if they don’t return before the end of the regular season, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

George has not played since December 22 due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He participated in a 4-on-4 practice against assistant coaches with minimal contact on Sunday.

“He’s feeling better,” Lue said. “That is part of his rehab, having minimal contact with the coaches and trying to get his wind and just kind of see how he feels. To get him on the court for the first time was really good to see, got to continue to keep working and see how he is feeling going forward.”

The Clippers, who have lost three straight, are essentially locked into the play-in tournament. They’re currently eighth in the Western Conference, 6.5 games behind the sixth- and seventh-place Timberwolves and Nuggets with nine games to play. They’re 4.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Lakers.

Leonard hasn’t played this season after undergoing knee surgery last summer. Powell, who fractured a bone in his left foot shortly after he was acquired from Portland at the trade deadline, shed his walking boot last week but hasn’t yet cleared been cleared for contact, according to Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register.

Lue won’t hesitate to use any of them in the playoffs.

“To hit the playoffs going at 100, from zero to 100, that is pretty tough. But if the medical guys say they are cleared and they are able to do that, that is totally up to them,” he said.

Injury Notes: Leonard, George, Bulls, D. Green, Reddish

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard took part in a “rigorous” pregame workout that lasted well over an hour on Tuesday, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said during TNT’s broadcast (video link via Justin Russo). According to Haynes, it looked like Leonard had “zero limitations” during that workout, but head coach Tyronn Lue said the two-time Finals MVP still hasn’t been cleared for contact, as Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group relays.

Although Kawhi is clearly making progress, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski stated on Wednesday’s episode of NBA Today that a return this season is “more realistic” for teammate Paul George than for Leonard (video link). The Clippers haven’t ruled out the possibility of Leonard playing this spring, but Woj notes that it’s still been less than eight months since he underwent ACL surgery, which would be a very quick turnaround even if his recovery is ahead of schedule.

The Clippers are in position to make the play-in tournament and could extend their season by earning one of the West’s final two playoff spots, but the team may not be comfortable bringing back Leonard in the postseason without any regular season reps.

“I spoke to Coach Lue,” Haynes said on TNT last night. “And he told me that if he can’t get his guys back for games in the regular season, then it wouldn’t be safe for them to return in the playoffs.”

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • The Bulls have cleared Alex Caruso (wrist) for full contact and Patrick Williams (wrist) for “minimal” contact, per head coach Billy Donovan. As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes, there’s still no set timeline for either player to return to action. However, if Caruso is able to fully participate in the team’s next practice on Friday, he could be on track to play soon.
  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said today that swingman Danny Green will “most likely” miss Thursday’s game vs. Brooklyn due to a finger laceration, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link). Due to the risk of his stitches reopening, Green may end up being sidelined for a week or more, tweets Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com.
  • The Knicks have three games left on their current road trip, but forward Cam Reddish has returned to New York in order to have his injured right shoulder reevaluated, head coach Tom Thibodeau said today (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic). The injury, which Reddish sustained on Monday, is being called a sprain for now.

Clippers Notes: Covington, Powell, Blazers Trade

Robert Covington said he’s “beyond excited” by getting traded with Norman Powell to the Clippers, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk writes. The duo was shipped by the Trail Blazers in exchange for Eric BledsoeJustise WinslowKeon Johnson, and Detroit’s 2025 second-round pick on Friday. “It’s going to make us dynamic — more dynamic than what we already are and it’s going to be scary defensively,” Covington said.

Powell pumped in 28 points in a loss to Milwaukee on Sunday in his Clippers’ debut. Powell said he’ll have no trouble fitting in when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard return from their injuries.

“Literally for all my career, I have been in every single role on the team,” Powell said. “The guy fighting and scratching trying to get into the rotation. Being in a rotation, being taken out of a rotation, playing alongside Kyle [Lowry] and DeMar [DeRozan], playing alongside Kyle and Kawhi, playing off of them [in Toronto]. So I think I can fit perfectly in here, with PG and Kawhi.”

We have more on the Clippers:

  • The acquisition of Covington and Powell proved the Clippers have hit the market as resilient buyers, rather than selling off pieces due to their star duo’s injuries, Mark Medina of NBA.com opines. The Clippers managed to acquire talent while maintaining some flexibility, Medina notes. Powell is a dependable player entering his prime while on the first year of a five-year contract. Covington is an unrestricted free agent this summer but the Clippers now hold his Bird Rights if they want to re-sign him.
  • The acquisition of Powell could lead an especially potent crunch-time lineup in 2022/23 season when Leonard and George return to full health, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Powell fits in snugly in a sniper role playing alongside Leonard and George. Add in Luke Kennard or Reggie Jackson and defenses would struggle mightily to guard that quartet on the perimeter.
  • Coach Tyronn Lue and Portland coach Chauncey Billups are close friends, and that should facilitate the acclimation process for the newly-acquired duo, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. “Me and Chauncey, we run a lot of the same stuff,” Lue said. “Pretty much the same system, especially early offensive stuff. … The biggest thing is those guys getting comfortable and understand who they’re playing with on the floor and picking and choosing their spots.”