Well, the awaited update on Kawhi Leonard and his injury dropped today, as multiple outlets revealed he has a torn meniscus in his right knee. That’s the same knee on which he had the torn ACL nearly two years ago, and the same leg that was injured in his last season on the Spurs in 2018.
This isn’t the worst news possible, as meniscus tears are fairly common, have a not-lengthy recovery time, and are recoverable. Based on looking up information on the Cleveland Clinic and older reports on NBA players, depending on what course Kawhi Leonard takes (surgery vs just rehab), he should be ready for some basketball activities in three weeks to six months. Even with a conservative timetable, he should be ready for the start of the 2023-2024 regular season – or not miss more than a few weeks while getting into game shape.
The issues are threefold. One is that as mentioned above, Leonard’s injuries keep happening to the same leg/knee. I’m no doctor, but that seems bad. Similarly, this came after a couple weeks of intensive play, including high minutes loads in the playoffs and down the stretch of the regular season (with two back to backs). Can Kawhi’s leg really sustain such heavy use going forward? Only his doctors can really know, but making it only two games into the playoffs is depressing.
Second, Kawhi apparently injured his knee in Game 1 (which the Clippers won) and played through it in Game 2 before sitting the last three. Questions then arise on the decision-making there. Should the Clippers have allowed him to play in Game 2? Did he already have the tear and just delay the inevitable? Did he have a less severe injury that was exacerbated by playing in Game 2? It’s probably impossible to say, but Kawhi Leonard possibly playing Game 2 on a torn meniscus is a bad look – and him tearing it after being injured in Game 1 might be nearly as bad.
Finally, there’s the question of the Clippers’ opaqueness in reporting all this. After the injury was announced shortly before Game 3, Kawhi Leonard was reported as “game to game”. This was then made a bit worse in the coming days as the official reports of “knee sprain” and “no timetable for return” trickled out, but still, all that is very different from a torn meniscus. Did the Clippers know he had one several days ago and not just not report it? Did they just get the final diagnosis via MRI this morning? Did they know it was bad (enough to rule him out of the playoffs) but hold off for gamesmanship purposes? It’s a mystery, but the fact we even have to question is bad.
Ultimately, Kawhi Leonard should be “fine” in a few months. A meniscus tear is by no means a career-ending injury, and plenty of NBA players have recovered just fine. In some ways, the timing (heading straight into the offseason with plenty of time to recover) is ideal for the long-term. However, this is just another major downer on a season that was nothing short of a disaster, and calls into question further long-running issues with the Clippers.
The bottom line is that we wish Kawhi Leonard the best of luck and a speedy and complete recovery from his torn meniscus. Hopefully we see him back on the court in superstar mode in October!