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With just one month remaining in the regular season, Kawhi Leonard is making significant progress in his ACL tear rehab.
Jackie Moon was not the only one who made a surprise appearance before Tuesday night’s Clippers-Warriors game at the Chase Center. Kawhi Leonard was also spotted on the court pre-game, getting up shots and going through what reporter Chris Haynes called a “rigorous” workout that lasted over an hour. Haynes said that from his perspective, Leonard had zero limitations. Kawhi does indeed look smooth in the video below.
It has been less than eight months since Leonard underwent surgery to repair a partial tear in his right ACL on July 13. There have been whispers that he’s been ahead of schedule in his rehab process, and it’s starting to look more and more like those whispers have been true all along.
Will Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return before the playoffs?
Chris Haynes did also report that he spoke with Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, who said that if he can’t get his guys back for games in the regular season, it wouldn’t be safe for them to return in the playoffs. That is an understandable notion given the extra physical nature of the playoffs, but it still has to be a tough pill to swallow for Clippers fans, licking their chops at the thought of facing the Suns in the first round, possibly without Chris Paul.
Just last year in the Western Conference Finals, the Clippers forced the Suns to six games, playing the entire series without Kawhi, who injured his knee in the previous series against the Jazz. Paul George and the rest of the Clippers (most notably Reggie Jackson) stepped up in Kawhi’s absence, falling only two games short of reaching the NBA Finals.
Speaking of PG, Paul George has not played in a game since Christmas. George has been out dealing with a torn UCL in his right elbow. But videos of George shooting at a recent Clippers practice have also been circulating the Internet, suggesting that PG could be back sooner rather than later. There are no timetables yet for the return of either Kawhi or Paul George, but adding either or both stars to this scrappy Clippers team puts another wrinkle on the already murky Western Conference playoff picture.
The Clippers currently hold a solid position on the 8-seed in the West, trailing the Minnesota Timberwolves by 3.5 games for the 7-seed, and with a 4.5-game lead on the 9-seed Lakers. If the seeding remains the same as it is today, the Clippers and T-Wolves would face off in the first round of the play-in tournament. The Clippers-Wolves winner would play the 2-seed in the first round of the playoffs, and the loser would face the winner of the Lakers-Pelicans in a winner-gets-the-Suns and loser-goes-to-Cancun play-in Finale.