During Game 4 of the Los Angeles Clippers‘ second-round matchup against the Utah Jazz, Kawhi Leonard suffered a right knee injury. Multiple reports stated that the two-time Finals MVP sustained an ACL injury, which means he’s likely done for the remainder of the 2021 playoffs.
It’s unknown if Leonard suffered an ACL tear or sprain. The Clippers have been listing their star small forward as “out with a knee sprain,” and Leonard is reportedly unhappy that the franchise is underplaying the extent of his injury.
That’s at least what FS1’s Skip Bayless is hearing.
Skip Bayless: Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with Clippers’ medical staff
On Friday’s edition of Undisputed, Bayless claimed he heard from a source that Leonard is unhappy with the Clippers’ medical staff. It was a bold statement by the polarizing media figure, who previously had beef with the Clippers forward for how he left the San Antonio Spurs in 2018.
“I have been told by a very good source that the first issue became Kawhi was unhappy with the Clippers medical staff because he felt that they early on misdiagnosed and underplayed the extent of this knee injury,” Bayless said. “What does that smack of? What does that remind you of? San Antonio all over again. I keep telling you I have tried to forgive him for San Antonio, and I have, but I haven’t forgotten it because that was a long hard year. Kawhi Leonard is his own man. We know this. Once he gets a little sideways with medical staff, he’s going to pull away. He’s going to go to this doctor and that physical therapist away from the team. I was also told, as I told you from day 1, when this happened, he’s gone. He’s going to need some type of surgery.”
The Clippers haven’t ruled Leonard out for the rest of the playoffs, which is puzzling since ACL injuries take a long time to heal, even if it’s just a sprain. As Bayless mentioned, Leonard lost trust in the Spurs’ medical staff during the 2017-18 season and requested a trade in the summer of 2018. If the two-time Defensive Player of the Year has grown upset with the Clippers’ medical staff, he could potentially leave LA this offseason.
Kawhi Leonard can become an unrestricted free agent this offseason
Leonard has a player option worth $36 million for the 2021-22 season. If he declines it, he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Even if he has to undergo surgery, Leonard will still be heavily sought-after in free agency since he’s one of the top players in the NBA.
During the 2020-21 regular season, Leonard averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists while shooting 51.2% from the field. He was putting up 30.4 points per game in the 2021 playoffs before getting hurt on June 14 versus the Jazz at Staples Center.
The Clippers should tread carefully with Leonard since the future Hall of Famer has shown he’s not afraid to leave a team if he doesn’t trust their doctors.
Five-time All-Star requested trade from Spurs after losing trust in medical staff
During the 2017-18 season, Leonard only played in nine games for the Spurs due to a quad injury. Numerous chaotic events occurred that year and Leonard wound up requesting a trade in the offseason.
Tony Parker suffered a similar quad injury as Leonard did in May 2017. The Spurs legend returned to the court in November 2017, so people in San Antonio wondered why Leonard couldn’t come back toward the end of the 2017-18 season after being cleared to play by Spurs doctors. Parker said his quad ailment was “a hundred times worse” than the injury Leonard dealt with. Kawhi and his camp heard the comments and didn’t enjoy them.
Later in the season, Parker and Manu Ginobili led a players-only meeting during which Spurs players asked Leonard whether he planned to return to the lineup. Leonard was caught off guard by the meeting and left for New York to rehab his injury.
Members of the Spurs organization visited Leonard in New York to see how his rehab was going. The swingman was reportedly kept away from the staff members by his close associates. With that said, the Clippers would be wise to brush up on Leonard’s history with the Spurs and not make the same mistakes.