Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard fighting ‘stubborn inflammation,’ questionable for Game 1

Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard plays during an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 27, 2024, in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES — Kawhi Leonard has been fighting “very, very stubborn inflammation” in his surgically repaired right knee for nearly three weeks and he’ll be listed as questionable for the Los Angeles Clippers‘ playoff opener against the Dallas Mavericks.

The fourth-seeded Clippers host Luka Doncic and the fifth-seeded Mavs on Sunday.

“Progress has been made but the inflammation needs to continue to reduce so he can do functional basketball movements,” Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations, said Thursday. “We’re hopeful he’s going to get there.”

Leonard missed the final eight games of the regular season and hasn’t played since March 31.

He had an injection in his knee earlier this month, The Athletic reported Thursday, citing unspecified league sources.

“We don’t comment on any specific treatments,” Frank said. “He’s doing everything he can and we’re doing everything we can medically.”

Leonard has participated in film sessions and reviews of the Mavs’ personnel, but he hasn’t been able to have any contact on the court, Frank said.

The Clippers sent Frank to speak with reporters a day after coach Tyronn Lue apologized for getting visibly frustrated Wednesday by repeated questions about Leonard, who hasn’t been made available to media.

“I’m trying to be as transparent as possible,” Frank said. “It’s just very unpredictable. If things continue to get better and better, there’s a chance (he’ll play).”

Leonard had his healthiest regular season yet in four years with the Clippers, playing in 68 games. The All-Star forward averaged 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

“This guy lives for these moments. He prepares himself to be his best when his best is needed,” Frank said. “If he’s not healthy to play at a certain moment, he won’t be out there. When Kawhi is healthy, he plays.”

Frank said Leonard’s current inflammation is unrelated to his previous medical issues with the same knee.

Last season, Leonard played in the first game of the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns before missing the final three games with a torn meniscus in his right knee.

In the 2021 playoffs, Leonard sprained his knee against Utah in the Western Conference semifinals. The Clippers beat the Jazz and advanced to the Conference finals for the first time, losing to Phoenix in six games.

He then missed all of the 2021-22 season after recovering from a partial tear of the ACL in his right knee.

In January, Leonard signed a contract extension with the Clippers that will pay him $153 million over the next three years.

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