LA Clippers won’t have Kawhi Leonard for preseason home opener

HONOLULU, HI - OCTOBER 3: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers looks on during the game against the Houston Rockets on October 3, 2019 at the Stan Sheriff Center, Hawaii. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jay Metzger/NBAE via Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - OCTOBER 3: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers looks on during the game against the Houston Rockets on October 3, 2019 at the Stan Sheriff Center, Hawaii. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jay Metzger/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Despite some speculation that Kawhi Leonard would play against the Denver Nuggets, the star forward will miss the LA Clippers’ preseason home opener.

From what we can gauge on Twitter, the LA Clippers fan base is as anxious as ever to see Kawhi Leonard make his debut. Thursday seemed like the first real chance for him to make his first appearance in a Clippers uniform, as LA will host the Denver Nuggets in their preseason home opener. Unfortunately, though, Leonard will sit out.

Per the Orange County Register’s Mirjam Swanson, Leonard will miss the game due to rest. Rodney McGruder will also miss Thursday’s game with a right ankle sprain, and Paul George is expected to be out until November as he continues his rehabilitation assignment.

It’s a bit of a bummer for Clippers fans, but surely it won’t spoil their spirits. The upcoming season is shaping up to be the most successful in franchise history, and with all the excitement that comes with that, they’ll hardly miss Leonard in this preseason scrimmage.

The decision is in the team’s best interest, after all. Leonard almost certainly won’t play every game of the 2019-2020 season due to load management, but resting during a few extra preseason games could allow him to play in a few more regular season contests.

There’s more good news, too. According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, Doc Rivers now expects that Leonard will play in one or two preseason games. So at the very least, fans should expect to see Leonard in one of LA’s final two preseason games — either against Melbourne United, Sunday at STAPLES Center, or next Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks in Vancouver. After that, LA will host the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night. Surely, Leonard will play in that one.

Despite Leonard’s absence, LA’s matchup with Denver still serves a few purposes.

The Clippers’ rotations still aren’t set in stone, and they likely won’t be until we get further into the regular season. As of now, Leonard and George are the only two players that are guaranteed to be starters. Reserves like JaMychal Green, Maurice Harkless and Terance Mann (among others) could still find their way in, and it seems likely that each will get the chance to start in at least a few games this season.

There’s also a roster spot that remains open, leaving the Clippers one player short of a full 15-man unit. There are a few candidates who could fill that vacancy, some of which have appeared in a few of LA’s preseason games so far. Of that bunch, point guard Derrick Walton Jr. seems like the most likely choice to make the roster. He’s small but has been effective as both a scorer and a passer thus far.

This matchup could also serve as a potential postseason preview. Both the Clippers and the Nuggets have championship aspirations, and although neither team will be at full strength, it should allow the two to feel each other out.

Next. Why the LA Clippers are the best team in LA. dark

The LA Clippers will take on the Denver Nuggets tonight at 7:30 p.m. PST. As always, be sure to follow along with @ClipperholicsFS on Twitter for live updates!