Any time the words “Kawhi Leonard” and “injury” are in the same sentence, Clippers faithful get understandably nervous. The history there is long and troubling.
After the Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets Saturday, Leonard tried to assure people the foot soreness that had kept him out the previous five games was no big deal and would not impact him the rest of the season or into the playoffs.
“I’m feeling good,” Leonard said. “We took the proper steps to get me right, to make sure nothing significant is wrong with me.”
Does that mean Leonard can play through the injury rest of the season?
“Yeah. I mean, I’ve been doing it,” Leonard said. “It’s not something that just occurred after the last game. But I’ll be all right. I’ve been through situations like this before.”
Leonard has played at a near MVP level when healthy this season, averaging 25.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists a game while shooting 39.7% from three. When he is on the court this season, the Clippers are 12.1 points per 100 possessions better. In the minutes with Leonard and George together on the court, the Clippers are +16.9.
When healthy, the Clippers have shown flashes of why they need to be considered a title contender — this is a deep, versatile roster that can defend on one end and score in a variety of ways on the other. Leonard is the embodiment of that.
However, health and consistency have eluded Los Angeles this season. After last season’s playoff meltdown — in the bubble, where the “groundhog day” environment threw some players and teams off — there is a certain “you’ll have to show me” attitude about the Clippers from fans and pundits.
To do that, the Clippers will need Finals MVP-level Leonard. He says his foot is not going to hold him back from that.