Clippers' Kawhi Leonard: 'I Definitely Got a Lot Stronger' During ACL Injury Rehab

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 26, 2022

Los Angeles Clippers Kawhi Leonard speaks to members of the press during the Los Angeles Clippers media day at the Honey Training Center in Playa Vista, California, on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard missed the entire 2021-22 season due to a torn right ACL, but the Los Angeles Clippers superstar is feeling good heading into training camp.

"I feel stronger, for sure," he told reporters on Monday at the team's media day. "It's been, what, 14, 15 months of no basketball—well, playing in an NBA season for me, no basketball. That whole 13-, 14-month process is just lifting weights and getting stronger. I definitely got a lot stronger."

Leonard said he planned to participate in training camp starting on Tuesday:

Ohm Youngmisuk @NotoriousOHM

Kawhi says he “definitely” feels stronger having worked last 13 months and getting stronger without playing. He says had the Clippers made it to the Finals last year, he would’ve been back on the floor. He says he feels good but has to see how his body responds. <a href="https://t.co/l8AiFf7iwm">pic.twitter.com/l8AiFf7iwm</a>

He also acknowledged that there was still some uncertainty about how he would feel once the actual basketball began in the regular season.

"Right now I feel good in my workouts, weightlifting," Leonard said. "I don't feel like I have a subconscious mind of not jumping off my leg per se. I feel good. We'll just see how the season goes. And can't really tell you how that's going to work out."

Leonard seemed thrilled for media day in general:


Kawhi: “Media Day, let’s get this over with” 🤣<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/LAClippers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LAClippers</a>) <a href="https://t.co/P1kzBZnQot">pic.twitter.com/P1kzBZnQot</a>

Expectations were sky high for the Clippers after Leonard and Paul George joined forces ahead of the 2019-20 season. But a disappointing showing in the bubble that led to the end of Doc Rivers' time as head coach and a smattering of injuries for the star pair have resulted in a disappointing partnership to this point.

At his healthy best, the 31-year-old Leonard is one of the most dominant two-way wings in the NBA. The five-time All-Star, two-time champion and two-time Defensive Player of the Year averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the Clippers in 52 games during the 2020-21 season, shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from three.

If he and George can remain healthy, the Clippers are a legitimate title threat, with a loaded and veteran supporting cast behind them.