Unfortunately, the Clippers' worst fears fans have come true, as their star Kawhi Leonard underwent surgery yesterday to repair a partially torn right ACL. He suffered the injury towards the end of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals versus the Utah Jazz. Kawhi's status would be up in the air for the remainder of their playoff run, with some fans even hoping he could make a return. But it turned out that the worst possible outcome is taking place, as Kawhi suffered one of the worst injuries in basketball.
There is no timetable for his return, but knowing Kawhi's injury history and tolerance for pain, including other examples of this sort of surgery, we are looking at full reconstruction (Grade 3 tear). This implies a 9-month period to return on the court and even longer to get back to the same level. For comparison Spencer Dinwiddie and Thomas Bryant suffered partial ACL tears (Grade 2) early in this season, missing 60+ games. Dinwiddie was cleared for basketball activities recently, 6 months after his injury. If Kawhi goes the same route as with previous injuries, waiting until he is 110% ready to play, this injury will most likely stretch out through next season, which will raise many questions for the LA Clippers.
They proved themselves after Kawhi went down, shocking the Utah Jazz and taking the next two games after Kawhi went down, bouncing them out in six games. They put up a valiant effort versus the Phoenix Suns, but without their superstar, it just wasn't enough to beat the red-hot Phoenix Suns. Still, it seemed like a success, as Paul George finally showed some leadership in the playoffs, alongside guys like Reggie Jackson and Terance Mann showing up and proving they can be counted on.
Kawhi's future with the Clippers was up for question, with some analysts speculating he could look to move elsewhere. But after this injury, some things got a lot clearer and logical. Kawhi has a player option for next year, worth 36$ million. If he declines, Leonard can only sign a 4-year contract with the Clippers or someone else. But if he stays with the Clippers for one more year, he will earn full Bird Rights and be eligible to sign a 5-year max contract. Considering Kawhi is 30 years old, with a history of injuries, this could be the best solution for stability. Considering he is home, Kawhi will most likely spend the rest of his playing days with the Clippers. Hopefully, for them, he will return sooner than later, healthy and ready to finally lead them to a championship.
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