When Kawhi Leonard initially got injured in the second round of the 2021 playoffs, the prognosis was relatively positive. The injury was originally considered a knee sprain, and there appeared to be a chance that he could return during the postseason. But things grew increasingly pessimistic as he continued to miss games, and eventually it was revealed that he had suffered a partially torn ACL. Such injuries are significantly more serious. Players frequently miss entire seasons recovering.
Will that be the case for Leonard? It's unclear. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer suggested that Leonard could return this season, but he wouldn't commit to such a timeline.
"Nobody knows at this stage," Ballmer said at the groundbreaking of the team's new arena Friday. "Nobody knows. It's possible. For sure, it's possible. But it will depend on what the doctors say and what Kawhi says."
Some players with only partially torn ACLs have recovered much faster than the typical year-long process for full tears. Spencer Dinwiddie, for instance, suffered a partially torn ACL in December, but reports indicated that he might have been ready to play in the NBA Finals had the Brooklyn Nets made it there. Each player recovers differently based on the severity of the tear, the success of the surgery and a number of other individual factors.
Leonard has been dealing with leg issues for the past several years, and the Clippers have been very cautious with him. They likely will be again this season. With Leonard expected to miss significant time, there would be no reason to bring him back if the Clippers are out of the playoff picture by the time he is healthy. Leonard signed a four-year max contract this offseason, so the Clippers need to emphasize his long-term health.