Kawhi Leonard 'strong' but Doc Rivers says Clippers will be smart with usage

Kawhi Leonard is out of the quarantine process, and the LA Clippers All-Star says he got stronger during the NBA's four-month hiatus.

Leonard spent the weekend in quarantine after he arrived for the league's restart in Orlando, Florida, separate from the Clippers following an excused absence to tend to a family matter. He joined the Clippers on Monday for his first team practice since the season was halted in March.


"Has it been four months?" Leonard said when asked about his health after having four months off. "I mean, I feel good. You know, was able to work out, get strong and prepare for this moment now that we're in. It's about to be the first practice today, so I'm excited."

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said there are "no limits" on his star player but that the team will proceed cautiously and be smart about ramping Leonard up for postseason play.

Leonard did not participate in training camp and did not play in the second of back-to-back games this season as he managed a knee issue.

"I don't know that yet," Rivers said of how he plans to use Leonard in the eight seeding games prior to the postseason. "But no limits. Kawhi is healthy for the most part. That still doesn't mean that we don't want to maintain him and get him through the first eight games and get ready for the playoffs. We want to be smart about this."

Leonard said he used the time off during the hiatus "just like an offseason pretty much" -- although, as Rivers has pointed out, Leonard didn't have much of an offseason to train hard last summer because the Finals MVP was recovering from the Toronto Raptors' long championship run.


Leonard said he will treat the next several weeks like a preseason to get ready for the playoffs.

"You usually have three months and then come in for a training camp, have a couple practices, then you've got the preseason games," Leonard said. "That's pretty much the mindset. But like everybody knows, you only get eight games to get ready for the postseason. But pretty much just take that same timeline to prepare yourself.

"Everybody knows their body and knows what they need to do, so I mean, it's going to be my first practice today, so we're going to go out and see how I feel and then just go from there, just keep building off of that. But nobody knows."

During his time at home, Leonard watched George Floyd's death grow the Black Lives Matter movement and ignite a wave of protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Leonard said he will continue to give to the Southern California community, including his hometown area of Moreno Valley.

"I mean, for me and my teammates, pretty much everybody -- we're Black, so we've been dealing with this situation," Leonard said. "We've been giving back to our communities. It's just broadcasting now since everybody has been in quarantine I feel like. ... But I'm just going to continue to do what I've been doing, giving back to my community, educating my community and just keep going from there."


"What's happened, what everybody has been saying on the news, it's been like [that] for me," Leonard added. "I've been seeing those situations, so it's nothing new to me, and I'm still going to continue to help and educate people as well as my teammates. It doesn't matter if we [make] a statement on the back of our jersey; it's about doing the work."

The Clippers (44-20) enter the restart as a title contender with Leonard averaging a career-high 26.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5 assists per game. Leonard said the unprecedented interruption in the season won't take away from any team that wins the championship.

"This is just the layout of this year," Leonard said when asked about the opinion from some that there should be an asterisk on this season. "Just pretty much stay focused. It's not like a regular NBA season. Nobody's life is pretty much how they planned it to be at this point with the pandemic, so I mean, you take it for what it is.

"Everybody is happy that a championship will be crowned this year, and if that's the 2020 championship, then we want it. You know, that's how I look at it. This is what the layout is, as far as to go out there and complete this journey."

Related Video
Kawhi not surprised by players testing positive for COVID-19 in bubble
Kawhi not surprised by players testing positive for COVID-19 in bubble
Kawhi Leonard says everything is being done to keep everyone safe and healthy in the bubble, but concedes there is no control over the coronavirus.
Copyright © 2021 ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved.