LA Clippers in review: Can Kawhi Leonard stay healthy?

Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

If you are the LA Clippers, there’s good news and bad news.

Let’s start with the good — Kawhi Leonard, even after suffering an injury and missing an entire season, is still the dominant, stoic, hope-crushing bucket-getter. His basketball brilliance hasn’t gone away. The bad news? Nor have the injuries.

‘The Klaw’ made his return to the hardwood in the first game of the season against the Los Angeles Lakers. Under stringent minutes restriction, he still managed to log 14 points on six-of-twelve shooting and six rebounds.

Then he sat out for a game. Then played in the next. Then missed 12 in a row.

Despite all the palpable excitement surrounding Leonard’s return, the first quarter of his season was nothing more than mediocre — his three-point shot looked broken, and he didn’t exert the same kind of fear-inciting dominance on either end of the floor.

But greatness never truly escapes from a great — especially if you’re a two-time Finals MVP. When Leonard was cleared to take on longer minutes and play more games, he began to find his rhythm. His 8.3 points per game in November (though just three games) jumped to 20.6 in December then skyrocketed to 27.7 in January.

And with the playoffs just around the corner, the five-time All-Star took it to a level most basketball players can never rise to. In the final 18 games of the season, he played like the emotionless, insurmountable player he was prior to the injury: 27.1 points on 53.8 and 47 percent field-goal and three-point shooting, respectively — not to overlook his 7.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

As the playoffs began, Kawhi Leonard rose to the occasion for the LA Clippers.

The dazzling star shined brightest come playoff time: Kawhi Leonard’s 38 points gifted the LA Clippers a win in game one against the Phoenix Suns, and he followed this with 31 points in a game two loss.

But this lone star was veiled shortly after. Leonard suffered a torn meniscus and missed the next three games of the team’s short-lived postseason. Though it was a very small sample size of two games, the 32-year-old looked like one of the league’s best playoff performers. He stuffed the stat sheets, averaging 34.5 points on 54.5 percent shooting, 6.5 rebounds and six assists.

Leonard’s performance and injury leave the organization with many questions. Should the Clippers be content that their superstar is back doing superstar things? Or should they be worried that he, again, suffered an injury in the playoffs?

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There is not yet a simple yes-or-no answer. All we know, however, is that in a league full of good and bad players, games and luck, the Clippers have themselves a true great player. Perhaps that’s one good enough reason to give it all one last try.