June 23, 2024

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard has been sidelined for Game 4 on Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks because of swelling in his right knee and there is no timetable for his return to the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series, said Lawrence Frank, the team’s president of basketball operations.

Leonard missed Game 1 of the series that the Clippers won, returned to play 34 minutes and 55 seconds in Game 2 and just 24:32 in Game 3. But he was laboring the entire game, thus the reason for him not playing in the fourth game.

“He’s extremely disappointed and frustrated that he’s not playing today,” Frank said before Sunday’s game at American Airlines Center. “He wants to play, but it was obviously in Game 3 that his mobility was severely restricted. So, organizationally we just made a decision that he’s out.

“The obvious question, and I know it’s coming so I’ll beat you to it, when he’s coming back? Um, can’t tell you a timeline. I wish I had a crystal ball. Basically until he can show that he can make all the movements that he needs to make, that’s when he’ll come back. That will be the timeframe.”

Frank said Leoand wanted to play, but that “he’s obviously restricted” and that even using their best player as a second option in the corner was not a viable plan for a Clippers team that was trailing 2-1 in the series.

“Game 2, he felt fine. It was basically condition, rhythm, timing,” Frank said. “The following night some of the swelling came back. We were comfortable with what the amount of swelling was. We obviously reduced his minutes and played him in a different way. But when you watch him play, it was very obvious that that’s not Kawhi Leonard and we have to be able to get him to a point where he feels like he felt in Game 2. The expectation is that he would progress, but it didn’t work out that way so he obviously needs more time.”

Frank said the team did “another image” on Leonard’s knee and that it “structually was intact.”

“There’s different thoughts of why there’s inflammation,” Frank said. “He’s doing around the clock every (method) you can do. The medical staff is doing everything that they can do and we knew that there was a chance that it could come back. It’s just hard to predict…There’s no acute injury. It’s just been really tricky.”

Leonard played in 68 regular-season games this season for the Clippers, the most since he played in 74 for the Spurs during the 2916-17 season.

He missed the Clippers’ last eight regular-season games because of the issue, last playing March 31. He missed the first playoff game against the Mavericks, but played in the last two.

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