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Los Angeles Clippers remain committed to Kawhi Leonard, Paul George despite injury history

Los Angeles Clippers

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in hopes they would lead them to multiple NBA championships. In their past four years, however, the Clippers have experienced mostly heartache.

They finished their season on Tuesday with a 136-130 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of their first-round series, which coincided with both Leonard and George staying sidelined with right knee injuries. While George nursed a sprained right knee that sidelined him for the final nine regular-season games and the entire postseason, Leonard tore a meniscus in his right knee in Game 1 before symptoms worsened in Game 2.

Despite these latest developments, the Clippers remain committed toward retaining Leonard and George, according to a person familiar with their thinking that was not authorized to discuss publicly. While Leonard and George have two seasons left on their contract, they both have player options for the 2024-25 season. Leonard is expected to narrow in on various off-season rehab options in the next few weeks, and some of those options may not require surgery. Regardless of whatever rehab options Leonard takes, the Clippers remain optimistic he will make a full recovery for the 2024-25 season.

Stars struggle to stay off sideline with Los Angeles Clippers

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No doubt, the Clippers are mindful of their injury history.

They squandered a 3-1 second-round series lead to Denver in 2020 amid overlapping ailments, disjointed chemistry and struggles with adapting to the campus bubble. The Clippers advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history the following season (2020-21), but they lost to Phoenix in six games amid Leonard injuring the ACL in his right knee in Game 4 of their second-round series to Utah. With Leonard missing the entire 2021-22 season to recover from off-season surgery, the Clippers lost their second play-in tournament game against New Orleans with George sidelined because of a positive COVID-19 test.

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In total, Leonard (161 played games) and George (189) have stayed sidelined for significant chunks of a total of 308 regular-season games. After appearing in every playoff game in their first season in 2019-20, Leonard played in only chunks of the Clippers’ playoff games in 2021 (11 out of 19) and 2023 (two out of six). After playing all 32 combined post-season games in 2020 and 2021, George missed the entire first round against Phoenix.

Yet, the Clippers are mindful of a few factors.

Leonard, 31, and George, 32, are still in the prime years of their NBA careers and are enamored with their talent as two-way players. Though the Clippers had championship aspirations immediately after acquiring them, they still believe they have years left on their championship window. They view George’s latest injury as uncontrollable since it stemmed from Oklahoma City forward Lu Dort colliding into him in a regular-season game on March 21. Although they don’t believe Leonard’s latest injury is related to his ACL injury, they are aware that players often experience hiccups during their first full season following ACL surgery.

Overall, the Clippers view the medical staff’s proactive and cautious approach as helpful for managing their star player’s injuries. They also have praised the discipline Leonard and George have shown with their various rehabs.

“He’s definitely hurt,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said this week about Leonard. “It’s not load management where he’s taking time off. He’s shown in the past that he’s played through injuries in the playoffs. If it’s something he can’t play through, then it has to be pretty serious. We’re not talking about he’s sitting out because of load management or he’s tired. It’s nothing like that. It’s an actual thing.”

Mark Medina is an NBA Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram

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