Kawhi Leonard fully cleared for Clippers training camp after ACL injury

·Writer
·2 min read
Kawhi Leonard
The Clippers insisted Thursday that while Leonard is cleared to return, they will still be extremely cautious and use a "step-by-step" approach. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Kawhi Leonard has been cleared to participate fully in training camp next week in Las Vegas, marking a significant — and ideally final — step in his recovery from his 2021 ACL injury.

The Los Angeles Clippers, however, aren’t ready to rush their star back just yet.

The Clippers insisted on Thursday that they will proceed with a “step-by-step” approach and ease Leonard back in as they start camp.

"He feels great," Clippers president Lawrence Frank said, via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. "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."

Leonard didn’t play at all last season for the Clippers after he first tore his ACL during the second round of the playoffs in 2021. The 31-year-old averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game that season, his second in Los Angeles.

The Clippers are going to open their season on Oct. 20 against the Los Angeles Lakers, but they will play a pair of preseason games on Sept. 30 and Oct. 3 in Seattle. It’s unclear if Leonard will be allowed to participate in the preseason at all.

The team, Frank said, just isn’t ready to make that call.

"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."

What about Paul George?

Fellow Clippers star Paul George is also coming off an injury, though Frank said Thursday that George is “100% healthy.”

George tore his UCL in his right elbow during last season, which knocked him out for about three months, before he returned at the tail end of the season. The 32-year-old averaged 24.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 31 games last season.

"Paul has had an extremely purposeful, driven, and very productive off-season, in that his consistency of training has been off the charts,” Frank said. “Plus, he continues to take more and more of an ownership and leadership role.”