The injury that took Kawhi Leonard out of the playoffs also will keep him out of most of next season.
Leonard had surgery to repair a partial tear of his right anterior cruciate ligament, the team announced Tuesday.
The Clippers’ press release said, “there is no timetable for his return” — they have been incredibly vague about the injury from the start and called it a “knee sprain” — but historically, this is at least six months and could be nine months to a year. From Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes:
Re: Kawhi: Thomas Bryant & Spencer Dinwiddie each missed 60+ games after undergoing surgery for Grade 2 (partial tear) ACL injuries earlier this season. Dinwiddie was cleared for basketball activities ~6 months after surgery. Look for Kawhi’s recovery to carryover into next year.
— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) July 14, 2021
The way Leonard has been cautious about returning too quickly from previous injuries (his quadricep tendon injury), it’s safe to expect him to miss at least most of next season. The Clippers’ hopeful timeline would have him back for the playoffs next April, or a little before.
This is a huge blow to the Clippers, who made the franchise’s first Western Conference Finals this season and believed they could have done more if Leonard had remained healthy. The Clippers are targeting next playoffs to chase a first ring, but now they need to get good playoff seeding in a deep Western Conference without their First Team All-NBA forward who averaged 24.8 points and 6.5 rebounds a game, can create his own shot, and is a lockdown defender on the perimeter. The weight on Paul George‘s shoulders just got heavier.
Leonard is an unrestricted free agent this summer, but this injury changes little on that front. Despite an ACL tear at age 30, the Clippers will offer Leonard a max contract of any length he wishes. A few teams will make calls and try and poach him — Dallas has been rumored — but league sources have consistently told NBC Sports they expected him to re-sign with the Clippers. He worked too hard to get back home to Southern California. Also, he recently purchased a new home closer to the team’s practice facility and Staples Center, so he is not helicoptering in from San Diego. The only question will be the length of the contract: Does the ACL surgery make Leonard decide to take the security of a longer deal now?
Whatever he decides, the NBA will be a little less fun next season.