The Los Angeles Clippers have found themselves on the ropes yet again this postseason, falling to the Phoenix Suns last night to go down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals. It is not an unfamiliar position, given they went down 2-0 in every series to this point, but one thing is different: they don't have Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard has been out since hurting his knee in Game 4 of their second-round series against the Utah Jazz. The Clippers called it a knee sprain and we've been given no additional info to this point other than the fact that the superstar is out indefinitely. It sucks for numerous reasons, and we're all being robbed of another epic Kawhi playoff run due to knee issues once more.
All may not be well inside the organization, though. Skip Bayless reported on Friday's edition of Undisputed that Leonard is unhappy with the Clippers' medical staff and believes they misdiagnosed the knee issue initially, leading to a more serious injury that has knocked him out of postseason play. He also reported Leonard is going to need surgery and is done for the rest of the playoffs. From the 1:35 mark below:
Here's a transcription of his comments:
"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... I was also told, as I told you [Shannon] from Day 1 when this happened, he's gone. He's going to need some type of surgery. I'm not sure what the extent of it is, but he's going to need surgery. So he's out for the rest of the playoffs, but they don't say he's out because I think they're not talking."
That isn't good to hear for Clippers fans. As Skip and Shannon Sharpe point out, this is hauntingly reminiscent of Leonard's dispute with the San Antonio Spurs' medical staff and ultimately the reason why he forced his way to Toronto then left for the Clippers.
With all that said, I don't think it's time to sound the alarm and panic quite yet. We know very little about Kawhi the person, but we know one thing for sure: he wants to live and play in California. Specifically, he'd like to live and play close to his family in southern California. Everything he has done since he initially got injured with the Spurs has been a mean to that ends.
So if Leonard is unhappy with the Clippers, that's an issue for the organization. But he's not going to leave if he is as dedicated to playing in that area as he appears to be. The Lakers don't have another max slot available and Leonard had the chance to join LeBron James during his free agency in 2019 but passed on the opportunity. The Warriors could probably make something happen but northern California is a long ways away from Leonard's home in San Diego, and the same goes for the Kings if he ever wanted to try giving another cursed franchise a lift.
We'll see what happens. My bet is that, should this report prove accurate, Steve Ballmer will can the medical staff and bring in people Leonard trusts. He does have a player option this offseason that he will likely opt out of in pursuit of a more fruitful long-term deal, but any fears about Leonard heading elsewhere are unfounded for now.