Clippers say Kawhi Leonard has been cleared for 5-on-5 play

Kawhi Leonard More than a year after his last NBA game, he has been cleared for 5-on-5 basketball again.

Los Angeles Clippers President Lawrence Frank said on Thursday that the team would proceed with some caution, with two-time NBA Finals MVP and five-time All-Star Leonard, who tore an ACL in his right knee during the playoffs in June 2021.

Leonard missed the remainder of that postseason and the entirety of this past season.

“Well, I guess, one, he feels great,” Frank told reporters in Los Angeles. “Two, he has plans, look, he wants to participate in everything. And I think, three, organizationally, we’re going to be cautious. So it will be a step by step approach.

Leonard was expected to be approved, given the amount of time he has been given and the normal time it takes to recover from ACL surgery. But it is still a big step forward for the Clippers, who believe they can fight for the championship this season if they recover.

“You want those expectations,” said Frank. “Whenever you have a talented team, there should be expectations. You embrace them, and you always have to shoot for the highest goal. Our goal this year is not just to compete and try to win the championship, but The next year and the next year after that have to be in the same position.

Another positive injury news came from Frank on Thursday. he adds Paul GeorgeAn elbow injury – which limited him to 31 matches last season – is also a thing of the past. Frank also said that George was instrumental in recruiting former Clippers All-Star guard John Wall, who signed with the team hoping to revive his career after a long series of injuries.

Wall was selected to the All-Star Game for five consecutive seasons from 2014 to 2018, but has played only 82 games since then. He had surgery for bone spurs in his left heel, then tore his left Achilles tendon.

“Paul, his elbow is 100 percent healthy,” Frank said. “Paul has had an extremely purposeful, motivated and very productive off-season, with his consistency of training being off the charts. At the same time, he continues to assume greater ownership and leadership roles.”

Leonard already has two championships – in 2014 with San Antonio, and in 2019 with Toronto. He was the MVP in both of those title series.

The Clippers, however, are still chasing what will be the first title of the franchise. The closest they got was in 2021, when they made it to the finals of the Western Conference for the first time. But Leonard suffered an injury in the previous series against Utah, and the Clippers lost the West title matchup to Phoenix in six games. sons Lost to Milwaukee in that season’s NBA Finals.

“We all accept the challenge but realize how fragile it is,” Frank said. “We just have to go back to Kavi’s injury against Utah two years ago. Kavi was playing the best basketball of any player in the world. Our team was playing at a high level. Unfortunately for Kavi and the team, he got injured.” I think with that, it reinforces the urgency that you have to approach it every single day. Nothing is guaranteed.”

The Clippers will hold their media day on Monday, then head to Las Vegas for the start of training camp on Tuesday. His first pre-season game – and possibly, Leonard’s first game of action since those 2021 playoffs – is against Israeli club Maccabi Rainana on September 30 in Seattle.

“Kavi has very controlled basketball for a long time,” Frank said. “Although 5-on-5 is seen as a benchmark for the common man, it is much more complex than that. Ultimately, he gravitates toward being able to play in an NBA basketball game, and so he will continue to take those steps in camp.”

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