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Kawhi Leonard Expects ‘A Long Journey’ Back from ACL Injury

For the first time since the 2020–21 season, star forward Kawhi Leonard started for the Clippers on Thursday night, playing 25 minutes in a 96–91 win over the Pistons. 

Leonard, who missed the entirety of last year’s campaign after tearing the ACL in his right knee during the 2021 playoffs, didn’t stuff the stat sheet in the victory, tallying just six points and five rebounds. He did record a game-best plus-minus (+26), but admitted at the end of the night that he still anticipates “a long journey” before he fully heals from the severe injury.

“Like I said before, at the start of the season, it’s going to be a long journey,” Leonard said, per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “ACL recovery isn’t just one year. Everybody thinks that, but it’s a two-year process, so I know that and I’m going to keep going and going through the process.”

Leonard, 31, attempted to start the new season off the bench, playing in two of L.A.’s first three games in a limited role. However, he then missed 12 straight games before returning Thursday. 

After the win over Detroit, Leonard neglected to share exactly what kept him out for the better part of a month.

“Just rehabbing, getting ready,” Leonard, who experienced stiffness in his right knee on Oct. 25, told reporters. “I’m not going to explain it because I’m not a doctor, and nobody in here is one. So just getting back, ready to get on the floor.”

The Clippers (9–7) anticipate that Leonard will continue to be a part of the rotation when the team takes on the Spurs (6–10) on Saturday. After that, his status remains up in the air.

“I really don’t know,” Coach Ty Lue said, per NBA.com’s Mark Medina. “It’s going to be game-by-game and day-by-day with making sure he feels good. We’re going to ride our medical staff on this one, and see how it plays out. Just seeing how he feels is the most important thing. It’s not like he has to check any boxes.”

More NBA Coverage:

All Clippers: Jason Preston Honoring Mother During Lung Cancer Awareness Month

For more Los Angeles Clippers coverage, go to All Clippers. 

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