What is going on with Kawhi Leonard’s knee injury?

The Los Angeles Clippers are nearly guaranteed to play the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs as either the fourth or fifth seed in the Western Conference, but it’s not clear if and when Kawhi Leonard will be in uniform to join them.

As of Tuesday, April 9, the Clippers star is set to miss his fifth straight game due to what the team is thus far only calling “right knee inflammation,” but was enough of an issue to see him sent home from a road trip after it occurred, and has had very little concrete information provided on it since.

He did not travel to Phoenix for the first half of their back-to-back against the Suns:

Here is rest of the latest we know about what is going on, and when he could be back:

Kawhi got an MRI

According to Tomer Azarly, who covers the Clippers as a credentialed reporter for Clutch Points, Leonard “underwent a precautionary MRI upon returning to Los Angeles, which did not show anything that would cause the Clippers significant concern.”

Leonard left the team’s road trip after the soreness flared up vs. the Charlotte Hornets on April 1, and went back to Los Angeles for treatment rather than continue on with the team to Sacramento to face the Kings.

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was initially hoping Leonard would be back last Thursday, April 4 against the Denver Nuggets… but he has instead missed that game as well as (at least) the next three after it:

Azarly additionally reported that his sources say Leonard is “not expected to be out long enough to endanger his playoff availability, assuming the Clippers finish with a top-six seed.” However, Law Murray of The Athletic wrote that “while the Clippers remain unconcerned about his status overall, team sources maintain that they will not rush him back.”

The team is not providing any substantial updates

Besides preemptively ruling him out for his fifth game in a row against the Suns on Tuesday night, the Clippers have mostly been mum on any specifics regarding their perpetually mysterious star.

Lue would not even confirm to the media whether or not Leonard got imaging done on his injured right knee:

The reason for burbling skepticism about Leonard’s availability — and about the Clippers’ updates on it — is that this knee is the same one that Leonard tore his meniscus in during the 2023 NBA Playoffs, which the Clippers initially framed as a day-to-day “right knee sprain” before confirming the much worse injury after the postseason was over.

Leonard also partially tore his ACL in the same right knee during the 2021 NBA playoffs, later undergoing surgery that cost him the entire 2021-22 season.

Leonard is the Clippers’ consensus best player, and their chances of doing much — if anything — in the postseason will hinge on how healthy he can get for the first round, which is why the team’s caginess on this situation bears monitoring.

Will Leonard be back for the 2024 NBA playoffs?

So far it appears that he will. Azarly reported on Friday, April 5 that Leonard “and the team are going through the rehab process, managing the inflammation in his knee, and they’re hopeful he’ll return sometime next week, in time to play the final two or three games of the regular season.”

And while he’s already been ruled out for Tuesday, Azarly wrote on Monday that there is still a chance Leonard plays Wednesday in the team’s second game of the team’s home-and-home back-to-back against the Suns. If he does not return then, the Clippers have two more games before the end of the regular season he could theoretically play in: Friday, April 12 against the Utah Jazz, and Sunday, April 14 in the regular season finale against the Houston Rockets.

Stay tuned and bookmark this page, as we will be providing live updates as they come on Leonard’s status if and when he returns, whether to ramp up for the regular season, or for the 2024 playoffs.

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