After making the trip to OKC for a two-game set with the Thunder, LA Clippers star Kawhi Leonard was ruled out before Tuesday night’s game with what the team called “right knee, injury management.”
Injury management has been the term used for Leonard’s absences so far this season, but because this game was not part of a back-to-back set, there was some confusion as to why Leonard was not playing. Before the game, head coach Ty Lue revealed that Leonard experienced some tightness during shoot-around, forcing the team to send him back home to Los Angeles for treatment.
Lue added that he is not concerned about Leonard’s health, but should there be a level of concern? From a physical standpoint, it does not seem unusual that Leonard would experience some tightness in his first week back from an ACL tear and a long absence. Lue also said that Leonard wanted to play, which indicates the issue is not major. Because of this, there seems to be little reason for major concern surrounding Kawhi’s health; however, his absence has made for some concerning Clippers basketball.
The balance between patience and urgency
The importance of patience has rightfully been a key theme amongst this Clippers group. It is going to take a while for Kawhi Leonard to get fully acclimated, Norman Powell to find his footing, and other players on the roster to adjust to new roles. Any inconsistency caused by those growing pains is to be expected; however, the one constant should always be effort.
In their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, the Clippers were careless with the basketball, and often careless defensively. Against a young team, regardless of their record, poor effort is a death sentence. Down Leonard, George, and Morris, the Clippers were without their three top scorers. Losing a game without those three is acceptable, but doing so because of a lack of effort and assertiveness is not.
After the game, coach Lue told reporters, “I thought we did some good things, but we just gotta continue to keep getting better. When you’re shorthanded like that, the small things mean a lot. When you’re missing Kawhi, PG & Marcus, all the small things add up.”
While the execution was poor from the beginning, the Clippers did receive some life from their bench group, but it was too little too late. Players like Luke Kennard, Amir Coffey, and John Wall were solid in this one, and anchored by a great night from Ivica Zubac, that group was competitive. Unfortunately, the starters put them well too far behind, and it was too much to overcome on a night the Clippers were very shorthanded.
Patience is still key, but there is a level of urgency that needs to persist amidst the patience for this Clippers to to begin trending in the right direction.