Clippers playing it safe with Kawhi Leonard, John Wall vs. Kings – ClutchPoints

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By Tomer Azarly · 4 min read
The Los Angeles Clippers got their season off to a rocking start, defeating LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. They’ll try to improve to 2-0 against the Sacramento Kings without the services of Kawhi Leonard and John Wall.
Thursday night’s win marked Kawhi Leonard’s first official game back since tearing his ACL on June 14, 2021. John Wall also played in his first game since April 23, 2021, and has only played 40 games in three seasons . Both of them
Kawhi Leonard and John Wall are both OUT tomorrow due to return from injury rehab.
Everyone else on the Clippers is good to go vs. the Kings
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) October 22, 2022
The Clippers have a back-to-back set coming up this weekend with the Kings on Saturday and the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night. With Sunday being the home opener, it makes sense to rest both Leonard and Wall Saturday to play them in front of Clippers fans for the first time this regular season.
Leonard came off the bench for the first time since November 2013, scoring 14 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. The front office, medical staff, coaching staff, and the two-time NBA Finals MVP collectively decided on a plan to bring Leonard off the bench for an unspecified number of games as part of his ramp-up process. At this time, there hasn’t been a number placed on how many games it’ll happen.
Kawhi Leonard maintains that it’s a day-to-day process of evaluating his knee and body as he gradually increases his activity and workload.
“It’s all about how my knee responds,” the Clippers star explained. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and then gradually go as time goes forward and I’ll start adding minutes and once I’m ready to play 35 minutes when we come collectively — I think I played 33 minutes when I was healthy — that’s probably when you’ll see me starting. But like I told T-Lue, whatever way with his subs and how he thinks it should go without me affecting the game and causing people to get out of rhythm, I’m all for it. I just wanna win.”
Reporter: “What was it like coming in mid-2nd quarter?”
Kawhi Leonard: “I waited 82 games last year, so I didn’t think 15 minutes would be that long. This is how I started my career. Act like I was in foul trouble & once I check in the 2nd quarter, it’s time to play basketball.” pic.twitter.com/ESFshd7hDv
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) October 21, 2022
The current plan for Leonard to come off the bench does not include a plan to get him playing in back-to-back sets. The Clippers have 15 sets this season, and Leonard is expected to sit at least one of those as he ramps up.
“You gotta gradually play minutes in order to get the ACL strong,” Kawhi Leonard said. “Once you start playing 38 minutes first game, it could easily weaken up but I’m listening to the doctor with that. Like I said, it’s a long season. We wanna get in the playoffs and want me to play in the playoffs. These first weeks are not so important but they are but like I said we got players that can fill that role for me.
No back-to-backs for Kawhi Leonard, whose focus is strengthening his ACL right now.
“You gotta gradually play minutes in order to get the ACL strong. Once you start playing 38 minutes first game, it could easily weaken up. I’m listening to the doctors with that.” pic.twitter.com/NAo6wErUkj
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) October 21, 2022
John Wall came out of opening night feeling good and excited. He described himself as, ‘geeked,’ and, ‘turnt up,’ heading into the game against the Lakers.
Wall finished with a game-high tying 15 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes off the bench. He was — and will continue to be — limited in his return to full-time NBA action.
“It felt great,” Wall said on his return. “I know we all got a plan, me being on a minute restriction. But you kind of – when you get into a flow and you start getting into rhythm, you’re like “Don’t take me out.” But it’s a bigger picture for us. And it’s something that I have to like maintain and look at from like the past history of me trying to almost play 40 minutes every game and practice three hours. So the coaching staff and the doctors and the front office do a great job with that.”
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Wall will not play against the Kings and will be sitting out back-to-backs for the foreseeable future.
Saturday night will be a perfect example of why the Clippers kept their roster intact. Their depth will be on full display, with guys like Terance Mann, who played six minutes in the opener, and Amir Coffey, who didn’t play in the opener, fully expected to get more playing time.
“[The win] shows that we have a lot of talent out there,” Kawhi Leonard said. “We got the leading three-point shooter coming off the bench in the NBA. He proved it tonight. Went 100 percent. Just seeing that, you just know you got a stacked team. I don’t know how many guys usually come off the bench leading the league in three-point percentage. Like I said before, me and Paul being leaders on the team we gotta understand that and know we don’t have to force anything and we got players that can help us on both ends of the floor.”
Reggie Jackson, who was listed as probable with a groin injury heading into Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, is off the injury report and will play. Aside from Leonard and Wall, no other Clippers players are listed on the injury report.
The Clippers and Kings will tip off at 7PM PST.
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