The Wednesday-morning-blogger reason to have watched the Warriors clown the Clippers was for the Chris Haynes sideline reporter update on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Yahoo Sports reporter said Leonard participated in an extended workout in front of media members for the first time since having surgery to repair a torn ACL.
“Kawhi Leonard participated in a rigorous pregame workout that lasted for well over an hour today,” Chris Haynes said during the TNT broadcast Tuesday. “I was told it was his first extended workout he’s performed in front of media members. From my observation, he has zero limitations. Yet still, the Clippers are being cautious and still aren’t issuing a timetable for him or Paul George.”
Leonard letting the media watch him workout is the normal person equivalent of telling someone your deepest, darkest secret. He even shot 3s, on the court, for everyone to record on their phone, before the game.
Could he return soon? Will it be in time for the playoffs? Will Leonard ever tell anyone anything about any injury regardless of severity? Are the Clippers not issuing a timetable for a return because Leonard and George haven’t given them a timetable?
The tweet-length in-game report said coach Ty Lue would need to see both Leonard and George play regular season minutes before trying to make a return in the postseason.
“I spoke with coach Lue and he told me that if he can’t get his guys back for games in the regular season, it wouldn’t be safe for them to return in the playoffs,” Haynes said.
The organization may not be issuing a timeline, but it sounds like the coach is giving his two stars a month to get back on the court or call it a season. Who knows what kind of updates the team is getting, or if Leonard is even using the team’s medical staff. The coach either didn’t see — or didn’t want to acknowledge — Leonard getting up shots before the game.
George’s elbow injury has featured shady updates similar to the non-update updates we get for his teammate. The last progress report before Haynes’ incredibly efficient news dump was Lue telling reporters Feb. 25 that the elbow is “feeling better,” but will “need more time.” When George got hurt in late December, the team said he would be reevaluated in three to four weeks; more than 10 weeks have passed.
(He tore his UCL, which can be healed with rest and without surgery, according to Johns Hopkins Medical, but may require surgery depending on how you want to use it. When a baseball pitcher tears his UCL, it takes Tommy John surgery and a lengthy rehab to get back.)
I have a hard time trying to find reasons why the Clippers’ two stars have opted to treat everyone like mushrooms — feed them shit and keep them in the dark — when it comes to injuries. Leonard’s strategy is to never say anything to anyone, so I’ve come to expect it from him, just like I’ve come to expect that he’s always playing hurt.
And now it seems like George also has adopted this PR move, which is fine. They should know, though, that secrecy doesn’t do you any favors when you’re injury prone. It leads to speculation, like is this era of Clippers basketball another false prophecy of a super team?
If they don’t come back prior to the playoffs, which start April 16, then Steve Balmer will have to wait until next year when his two best players will be 31 and 32 and coming off major injuries and significant time missed. I agree with coach Lue that playing it safe is the smart move because the playoffs are hard on players who are healthy, and nothing about Leonard and George’s handling of their injuries would lead you to believe that they’re even remotely close to being 100 percent.
The franchise can’t gamble on the health of their best players because Kawhi and PG are their only option. The in-the-moment-basketball-fan reason to watch the Warriors trounce the Clippers on Tuesday night was to see if an overachieving LA could give a recently underwhelming Golden State team a game. Pfft.
The window to win a title is fleeting for super teams these days, and it’s smart to try to keep it propped open, but the question is: Will Leonard and George ever be healthy enough — and strong enough — to shove the Clippers through it?