Kawhi Leonard Rumors: 'Strong' Chance Clippers Star Returns During 2021-22 Season

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 7, 2022

FILE - Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard sits on the bench during the first half in Game 6 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns in Los Angeles, in this Wednesday, June 30, 2021, file photo. The biggest question hanging over the Clippers is when Leonard will return. Will he work his way back from knee surgery to repair a partially torn ACL before the end of the regular season? Or for the playoffs? Or remain out until next season?Even he isn't sure. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File

There is a "strong possibility" that Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, who has been sidelined since suffering a partially torn right ACL during his team's second-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz last June, returns to the court this season.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported the news during his TNT sideline reporting duties in the midst of the Clippers at Phoenix Suns game on Thursday (h/t RealGM). He also noted that Leonard is "ahead of schedule" in his rehab.

Haynes also wrote that Leonard has "amped up his workload in recent weeks and is looking stronger and stronger."

Leonard, a five-time All-Star, averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals last season.

The Clippers have struggled without Leonard, going 19-19 this season entering their road matchup with the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.

L.A. has also missed fellow All-Star Paul George for 13 games and counting, including 12 due to a right elbow injury that was diagnosed as a torn right UCL in late December. 

Still, the Clippers have managed to stay afloat in a top-heavy Western Conference.

L.A. entered Thursday only one game behind the fifth-place Dallas Mavericks and four games ahead of the 11th-place Sacramento Kings, who are currently the first team on the outside looking into the play-in tournament picture.

In other words, if the Clippers keep floating around .500 until Leonard gets back, they could be in good shape to make late-season and playoff runs.

At any rate, the Clippers don't appear to be worried about playoff positioning at the moment, per Haynes.

"Multiple players told Yahoo Sports they’re unconcerned about playoff positioning if the team is fully healthy, believing they can take down any team," Haynes said.

Last year's Clippers reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.

They beat the top-seeded Jazz in the second round to get there before falling to the Phoenix Suns in six games sans Leonard, who missed the final two games of the Utah series before sitting out the conference finals entirely.