Kawhere is Kawhi?: Clippers star missing for the beginning of the season

Kawhere is Kawhi?:  Clippers star missing for the beginning of the season

Josh Sutanto, Contributing Writer

Los Angeles Clippers small forward Kawhi Leonard, or the “Klaw,” is generally considered to be in the upper echelon of NBA players. His talents brought the Clippers to the conference finals in 2021, but a heartbreaking ACL tear took him out for the rest of the playoffs and the following season. Reports at the beginning of the season disclosed that Kawhi was ready to play, and in his preseason debut, he played well within his restricted minutes. The NBA season started October 19, and every team already has around a month’s worth of games under their belt. The Clippers have played in 14 games; however, Kawhi Leonard remains MIA, with only two games under his belt.

Kawhi has a history of injuries dating back to his stint with the San Antonio Spurs from 2011-2017. During the 2017 Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Kawhi injured his ankle, ending the series for him and the Spurs. At first, what seemed like a minor injury began to cause headlines when Leonard flat-out refused to play during the following season.

His ankle healed quickly, but Leonard had a lingering quad injury known as quadriceps tendinopathy, which at the time hadn’t been revealed yet. Quadriceps tendinopathy is a lingering injury that causes knee pain, swelling, and stiffness, and is aggravated with continued jumping, and running. The Spurs left rehab of this injury to Kawhi’s management, whose opinions often conflicted with the team. The rift between the Spurs execs and Leonard’s management eventually led to a trade sending him to the Raptors, where his name became infamously synonymous with the term load management.

In an attempt to mitigate this aggravation, the Raptors coaching staff minimized Leonard’s time on the court in the regular season. Leonard, starting from this point, would never be seen on the tailend of back-to-back games. His appearances remained inconsistent throughout the season, leading to him playing only 60 out of the 82 regular season games. Despite this, his “load management” plan led to a championship win for the Raptors, silencing critics of his participation.

Leonard, now with the Clippers, has continued his streak of truancy, playing 57 games in 2019, and 52 in 2020. The amount of games he has played has been on a consistent decline, yet the Clippers lack the results to justify his absences. Though they have been championship contenders in the two years Kawhi has played for them, they have never been able to attain the ever elusive championship. Now at the end of 2022, Leonard has since rehabbed from his ACL tear, yet remains away from action.

Leonard is proving to be a difficult player to handle lately. His lack of communication and his inconsistent appearances have often created controversy throughout his playing years. With Leonard skipping out on team trips and reports of his frustration starting to arise, the question remains – when will Leonard next suit up for the Clippers?