The Los Angeles Clippers are set to face DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls at Crypto dotcom Arena on Monday night. The Clippers got superstar forward Kawhi Leonard back this season after he missed the entire 2021-22 season rehabbing his torn right ACL. But as the 2022-23 season continues and Leonard’s workload is closely monitored, it begs the question: Is Kawhi Leonard playing tonight vs. the Bulls?
Kawhi Leonard injury status vs. Bulls
So far, the Clippers have a 39-36 record through 75 games this season. Leonard has played in 46 games for the Clippers this season, dealing with several different injuries early on as he worked his way back to form. Leonard has played in 29 of the Clippers’ last 34 games, with the five games he missed during that stretch being the second nights of back-to-back sets. LA remains determined to be extremely cautious with Leonard moving forward, and the latest injury report indicates that he is probable for their contest against the Bulls on Monday night.
Leonard took an elbow to the face during Saturday night’s contest against the New Orleans Pelicans. He left the game with a facial contusion, but the Clippers have reported that Leonard is expected to play vs. the Bulls on Monday night.
Last season, the Clippers accumulated a 42-40 regular-season record, all without the two-time NBA Finals MVP. This season, the Clippers are hoping to continue their pursuit of an NBA championship with a healthy Kawhi Leonard, and it has been quite the roller coaster ride so far. Leonard has looked much more like himself as of late, but it still hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing.
Leonard first underwent surgery to repair the partial tear of his right anterior cruciate ligament on July 13, 2021. After missing the entire 2021-22 campaign, he was ready to go on Opening Night of the 2022-23 season against the Los Angeles Lakers:
Kawhi Leonard’s official first bucket back pic.twitter.com/0xeeN2B0DZ
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) October 21, 2022
However, Leonard only played two games before suffering a setback. On October 25th, Leonard was ruled out due to stiffness and swelling in his surgically repaired right knee. He would go on to miss the next 12 games with this ailment.
Leonard returned on November 17th against the Detroit Pistons. He appeared to be getting into a rhythm until he suffered a sprained ankle late in his third game back against the Utah Jazz. Leonard initially claimed he was fine, but ended up missing the next six games for the Clippers.
“Yeah, I’m good. Just rolled my ankle, but I should be fine.”
Kawhi Leonard on the tweak of his ankle late in Clippers-Jazz. pic.twitter.com/MiDiNYD0zn
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) November 22, 2022
Leonard returned against the Charlotte Hornets on December 5th. He scored 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including the game-winning shot with 1.4 seconds remaining. The Clippers would finish the road trip 2-2, with Kawhi Leonard playing in three of the four games.
Kawhi Leonard for the lead!pic.twitter.com/7mHgji7fJ3
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) December 6, 2022
Since January 8th, Leonard is averaging 27.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on 52.9 percent shooting from the field, 47 percent from 3-point range, and 89.6 percent from the free throw line.
Head coach Tyronn Lue says Leonard looks to be all the way back to his old form.
“I think he’s back to being Kawhi Leonard,” Lue told ClutchPoints. “And then also playing 37 minutes a game as well, so being healthy, being able to get his bounce back, being able to defend at a high level and making his shots. And so, you know, we got him trending in the right direction, want to keep that going in the right direction. And now just like I said, my job is to make sure I put all the pieces around to make sure everything fits and works.
Paul George said he slowly sees Leonard getting more comfortable and looking like his old self.
“I think we’re seeing him more and more get to his spots,” George explained of Leonard. “We’re seeing him get comfortable. We’re seeing him be more aggressive as the games go on. He looked like himself, he looked like himself. He took the shots that the defense gave him, and his playmaking is always special with his ability to get to the paint and use his body. I mean, watching him, it’s him just getting back to, you know, home for him.
“This is his happy place, his home right here. So we’re gonna continue to support him around him, and again it just comes down to everybody now being in their roles and, you know, shining within that.”
“We’re seeing him get to his spots, get comfortable, be more aggressive as the games go on. He looked like himself… This is his happy place, his home right here. So we’re gonna continue to support him around him.”
Paul George on Kawhi Leonard
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) December 6, 2022
On February 24th, Leonard dropped a season-high 44 points on 16-of-22 shooting in the Clippers’ 176-175 loss to the Sacramento Kings, confirming that he’s feeling good at this point in the season. LA’s star, however, says the team still has a lot of work to do despite winning three games in a row, all with Russell Westbrook as a starter.
“We had a slow start, so we got a lot of catching up to do, but we’re making the right strides.”
Kawhi Leonard on if the Clippers are close to where they want to be after winning 6 of 7:
“No. We had a slow start, so we got a lot of catching up to do, but we’re making the right strides.”pic.twitter.com/3HcOm0uZnL
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 1, 2023
The Clippers have not been playing Leonard on the second-half of back-to-backs so far this season. Lue said Leonard is officially not restricted from a minutes perspective coming out of the All-Star break, but they’ve maintained a strong stance on him not playing back-to-backs. They only have three back-to-back sets remaining this season, and eight of their final 13 games are at home. Of those 13 games, four will come after at least two days off.
In 46 appearances this season, Kawhi Leonard is averaging 23.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.5 steals on 51.2 percent shooting from the field, 40.9 percent from 3-point range, and 86.7 percent from the free throw line.
As the Clippers prepare for their matchup against the Bulls, the question is answered: Is Kawhi Leonard playing tonight? Yes, he is.
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