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Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard says ACL injury recovery is a “two-year process” after first game in nearly a month

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard returned to the court Thursday night, playing 24 minutes in the team’s 96-91 win over the Detroit Pistons. He finished with just six points on 2-of-8 shooting, but added five rebounds, five assists and four steals and was a team-high plus-26. Notably, he was in the starting lineup for this game, unlike his first two starts of the season, where he came off the bench.

After missing all of last season while recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the 2021 playoffs, Leonard played in two of the Clippers’ first three games before going back to the bench. The team referred to his absence as “managing a right knee injury,” and it’s still unclear exactly why he hasn’t played in the past 12 games. To no one’s surprise, Leonard refused to go into details upon his return.

“Just rehabbing, getting ready,” Leonard said. “I’m not going to explain it because I’m not a doctor, and nobody here is. So I’m just coming back, ready to be on the court… As I said before, at the beginning of the season, it’s going to be a long journey. The recovery The LCA 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 keep going with the process.”

It is true that the ACL recovery process is longer than the season the player misses. Mentally you need to learn to trust your body again, and physically you need to get the rhythm back and feel the game. However, I would expect that process to play out on the court, as it did with the Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray, who was on the same timeline as Leonard.

Leonard’s setback and the confusion surrounding the situation, combined with his inability to stay on the floor in recent seasons, raised serious concerns about the Clippers’ prospects this season. They can only reach their full potential as title contenders if they’re healthy for most of the season and come playoff time, and the past few weeks have made that result much harder to believe.

The Clippers’ next game is Saturday at home against the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard’s original team. The status of him for that game is unclear.

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