Clippers' Leonard has meniscus tear, will be ready for next season
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has a meniscus tear in his right knee, although his surgically repaired right ACL is intact.
The team had said Leonard sustained a right knee sprain after playing in the first two games of the Clippers’ first-round loss to Phoenix but didn't provide further details.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP had an MRI in Los Angeles after Game 2, which showed the tear, according to Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations.
“Regardless of the treatment, Kawhi will be ready for next year,” Frank said Thursday.
The team has yet to decide on a course of treatment, he said. Rest or surgery are among the wide range of treatments for the common knee injury.
Leonard missed all of last season while recovering from ACL surgery. Frank said his ACL is “firmly intact.”
The undermanned Clippers were eliminated in five games against the Suns.
Paul George wasn't able to play in the series because of a right knee sprain he suffered on March 21. If the Clippers had advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, he would have played, Frank said.
“He was pushing all limits and boundaries to be able to play,” Frank said.
The Clippers finished fifth in the West at 44-38. They went 33-19 in games with Leonard and 24-14 in games when both Leonard and George played.
“What I don't want to do is to have the injuries or how hard we fought in the postseason to mask a disappointing regular season,” Lawrence said. “We have to get back to honoring and respecting the regular season. We have to compete harder, more consistently and we have to earn it.”
Coach Tyronn Lue will be back for his fifth season.
“Why wouldn't he be back? Of course, he's back,” Frank said. “Ty's a terrific coach, and we're excited to have him as our coach.”
The Clippers are interested in bringing back Russell Westbrook, who signed in late February after being traded by the Lakers to the Utah Jazz, who then waived the likely future Hall of Fame guard.
Westbrook brought intense energy and locker room leadership, and he carried the Clippers against the Suns after Leonard went down. He'll become a free agent this summer for the first time in his career.
“I give him a ton of credit. You love when guys get second chances and just knock it out of the park," Lawrence said.
“He had to be highly adaptable because the role that we described to him when we sat down became totally different than what it was at the end. He was willing to adapt along the way,” he said.
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