Kawhi Leonard scared some Los Angeles Clippers fans when he declined his $36 million player option for the 2021-22 season to become a free agent this offseason. It was a shocking move to a few pundits since the small forward is recovering from a torn ACL.
However, Leonard signed a new four-year contract with the Clippers worth $176.3 million. Once he recovers from his ACL injury, the two-time Finals MVP will continue on his quest alongside Paul George to deliver the Clippers their first championship in franchise history.
Without Leonard, who partially tore his right ACL in the 2021 Western Conference semifinals, the Clippers advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the Phoenix Suns in six games. While the team should be competitive in 2021-22 even if Leonard misses the entire campaign, a former superstar NFL wideout doesn’t believe the Clippers will win a championship during the Leonard-George era.
Keyshawn Johnson doesn’t think Kawhi Leonard will win a title with the Clippers
Keyshawn Johnson, who played 11 years in the NFL and won one Super Bowl, doesn’t believe Leonard will win a title with the Clippers. The three-time Pro Bowler insinuated that the Clippers organization is cursed and will always find a way to mess things up when it matters most.
“The Clippers are going to be the Clippers,” Johnson said. “And they’re going to be the Clippers again. It’s just the Clippers. If LeBron and AD switch uniforms, it’d still be the Clippers. It’s the Clippers. Don’t give me they went further than they’ve ever gone before. Don’t give me that. It’s the Clippers.”
The Clippers advanced to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history last season. However, they have never been to the NBA Finals, and Johnson doesn’t see that changing just because Leonard and George have committed to the team long-term.
Not only did the Los Angeles Lakers add Russell Westbrook next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but the Clippers will also likely be without Leonard for possibly the entire 2021-22 season, which means they probably won’t be title contenders again until 2022-23, when Leonard will be 31.
What will Kawhi Leonard look like when he comes back from his ACL tear?
Leonard was spectacular in 2020-21. He averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists while shooting 51.2% from the field, 39.8% from beyond the arc, and 88.5% from the free-throw line. The Clippers defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2021 playoffs and the Utah Jazz in the second round after losing Leonard in Game 4 of the Jazz series.
Modern medicine has helped several players come back from ACL injuries and still be effective. However, there’s no guarantee that Leonard will be his old self when he returns, although he did quiet critics in his lone season with the Toronto Raptors by leading them to the championship after dealing with a serious quadriceps injury the previous year on the San Antonio Spurs.
It will certainly be fascinating to see if Leonard does miss the entire 2021-22 season and what he looks like whenever he’s back on the hardwood. However, Johnson doesn’t envision the Clippers ever winning a championship, at least in his lifetime. This is a franchise that is notorious for choking, and the former NFL playmaker is sticking to his guns until LAC proves him wrong.
As is the case in sports, everyone has been giving their thoughts on the Leonard situation. While Johnson dropped a harsh truth bomb on Kawhi’s chances of winning a title on the Clippers, Skip Bayless is on the other end of the spectrum.
Skip Bayless thinks Clippers will win a ring
Arguably the most polarizing figure in sports media, Bayless thinks Leonard will win at least one title with the Clippers. He also doesn’t think LeBron will win another championship with the Lakers.
Bayless has been a LeBron hater his entire career, so his prediction about the Lakers didn’t shock anyone. However, the FS1 analyst used to bash Leonard not too long ago because of how the two-time champion left the Spurs, Bayless’ favorite NBA team. This clip proves that his LeBron hate will always come first.
Only time will tell if Leonard can win a championship with the Clippers. LAC certainly won’t be title contenders next season, though, since it appears their best player will be on the shelf for most, if not all, of the season.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.