Kawhi Leonard will not play in Game 5 of the Los Angeles Clippers' first-round series vs. the Phoenix Suns on Saturday due to a knee sprain, the team announced. Leonard initially suffered the injury in Game 1 and played through it in Game 2, but was unable to go in the Clippers' Game 3 and Game 4 defeats.
Clippers president Lawrence Frank told reporters prior to Game 3 that Leonard is "extremely disappointed" that he won't be able to suit up, but wouldn't go into further detail about the severity of his injury.
It remains unclear exactly when Leonard aggravated his knee, as he never went to the locker room and played over 80 combined minutes in Games 1 and 2. Clippers beat writer Law Murray suggested this play from the third quarter of Game 1, which was similar to the sequence where Leonard tore his ACL in the 2021 playoffs. But, again, that is just a guess.
When I wrote the final part of this story @TheAthletic earlier this week, I noted this play in the second half of Game 1.— Law Murray ❎️ (@LawMurrayTheNU) April 20, 2023
Not sure if this is the reason Kawhi Leonard is injured now, but this was a lot of tension on that right knee.https://t.co/eAZK65M2bT pic.twitter.com/und7a9mHmz
Leonard sat out of the entire 2021-22 season to rehab his knee and had been load managing it all season long. However, the Clippers have gone on record that these absences are due to a legitimate injury and not a case of load management. He missed 20 of the Clippers' first 27 games and the only time he played more than five consecutive games was when he played six in a row on either side of the All-Star break.
The plan seemed to be working to perfection. Leonard was terrific in the regular season when he did play, averaging 23.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists on 51.2/41.6/87.1 shooting splits. That trend continued in the first two games of this series, as Leonard put up a combined 69 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals on 24-of-44 from the field to help the Clippers steal home-court advantage.
This new injury is unrelated to the torn ACL, per Wojnarowski, though they did both happen in his right knee.
Heading into this series, the Clippers were already without Paul George, who sprained his knee during a March 21 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. While he is on the comeback trail and has restarted on-court activities, .
George's absence made the Clippers sizeable underdogs against the high-powered Suns led by Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, but after earning a split in Phoenix the Clippers had some hope. That has now been significantly drained by the Leonard news. There's still a long way to go in the series, but once again the Clippers have been dealt some serious bad luck in the playoffs.