The Los Angeles Clippers won two games against the Utah Jazz without Kawhi Leonard, advancing to the Western Conference Finals. But it appears now that they’ll have to go at least one more game with him sidelined.
According to Yahoo Sports NBA Insider Chris B. Haynes, Leonard did not travel to Phoenix and has been ruled out for the WCF opener on Sunday. The soon-to-be 30-year-old forward is rehabbing a knee injury that he suffered in Game 4 of the West semifinals against the Jazz and isn’t 100 percent just yet.
There hasn’t been a concrete update on how severe Leonard’s injury is just yet, other than it being a knee sprain. Stadium NBA Insider Shams Charania reported Wednesday the fear was that the superstar wing tore his ACL, but there hasn’t been any indication of that since.
But the Clippers won’t be the only team missing one of its best players to start the series: Chris Paul remains under the league’s health and safety protocols and will also be sidelined for Game 1, per Charania.
Paul tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
“Based on the information and based on the history of this particular protocol, everything’s day-to-day,” said head coach Monty Williams on Saturday.
According to NBA protocols, Paul must either register back-to-back negative tests at least 24 hours apart or, for vaccinated players (which Paul is), wait 10 days after testing positive and show no symptoms for at least 24 hours.
The 36-year-old veteran hasn’t missed any games yet this postseason, Sunday's will be his first, though he did battle a shoulder injury against the Lakers in the opening round, so it’s unclear how Phoenix will look without him. But reserve Cameron Payne has stepped up this postseason when called upon, averaging 10.2 points on 39 percent 3-point shooting in just 20 minutes a night.
For L.A., Reggie Jackson has been instrumental to its success, posting 16.6 points on 50/44/92 shooting splits through 13 games, and we all know who Terance Mann is after his 39-point eruption to close out the Jazz in Friday’s Game 6. Paul George has looked like “Playoff P” as of late, too.
Hopefully, Leonard and Paul are back sooner rather than later so fans get to see full squads on both sides. Regardless, the Clippers and Suns will be ready to go for Game 1 on Sunday in Phoenix at 3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT on ABC.
And though he’s currently quarantining, Paul is still staying involved, per ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, who tweeted that Jae Crowder said of CP3: “He’s been blowing up my phone.”
Get your snacks and drinks ready — it’s going to be a good one.