The Los Angeles Clippers fear that Kawhi Leonard has an ACL injury, and the guard will be out indefinitely, The Athletic reports.
The team announced earlier Wednesday that Leonard suffered a knee sprain and would be out for Wednesday night’s Western Conference semifinal Game 5 against the Jazz.
More imaging needs to be done to confirm the severity of the injury, and that will take place after the swelling has gone down, per ESPN.
Leonard, who was named to the all-NBA first team this week, sustained the injury while driving to the basket midway through the fourth quarter. As he approached the free throw line and prepared to shoot, he planted hard on his right knee as he received a bump from Jazz forward Joe Ingles.
After the collision, Leonard came up limping and holding his right knee. He flexed his knee and attempted to keep playing, but he departed with 4:35 remaining and did not return. The Clippers held on for a 118-104 victory to even the seven-game series at two games apiece. During a postgame interview on TNT, Leonard said, “I’ll be good,” when asked about his knee.
Leonard, 29, is averaging 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game during the postseason. He led the Clippers past the Dallas Mavericks in the first round and finished with 31 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Game 4 to even the series. Leonard is seeking the third title of his career after winning with the 2014 San Antonio Spurs and 2019 Toronto Raptors, and the Clippers are attempting to reach the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
The Clippers were 36-16 with Leonard this season and 11-9 without him. This is a crucial moment for Leonard, who is set to be the biggest name on this summer’s free agency market, and the Clippers, who have spent heavily and invested future draft assets to build a contender around Leonard and all-star forward Paul George over the last two seasons.
Throughout his career, Leonard has battled various lower leg injuries: an ankle sprain sidelined him for much of the 2017 Western Conference finals and a quadriceps injury limited him to just nine games played during the 2017-18 season. Because of his nagging leg injuries, Leonard has become associated with “load management,” the practice of limiting a player’s games and minutes in an effort to protect his long-term health.
Associated Press material was used in this story.
Kris Rhim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.