In a recent episode of “NBA Countdown,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith shocked viewers with his opinion on Kawhi Leonard injury history. Smith suggested that the LA Clippers star should retire due to his recurring injuries.
"In the case of Kawhi Leonard, I stand alone probably on this but I don't care: I think the man should retire. I'm sick of these injuries to Kawhi… It's a damn shame."
— Stephen A. Smithpic.twitter.com/Kh9dkJ5FiP
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) April 22, 2023
“I think the man should retire,” Smith said. “I’m sick of these injuries to Kawhi Leonard. I’m not questioning the legitimacy of any of them, but my God! Him and Paul George have played a grand total of 22.0% of their games together.”
Smith went on to express his frustration with Leonard’s unavailability due to injuries, and the impact it has on the Clippers’ performance as a team. “You got Kawhi, who is religiously unavailable, okay? Then the flip side to it all is that it doesn’t matter. It’s like it’s not even the injuries that take place before all of us… This is how a lot of people feel.”
While Smith’s opinion may seem harsh, it is true that Leonard has struggled with injuries throughout his career. Since joining the Clippers in 2019, Leonard has played in only 161 of the possible 308 regular season games. He and Paul George have played together in just 118 games, with the Clippers winning 83 of those.
The Clippers’ postseason hopes took a hit when George was ruled out for the first round due to a right knee sprain. Leonard then suffered a similar injury in Game 1 against the Phoenix Suns and missed Game 4. The Clippers trail the Suns 3-1 in the series and face an uphill battle to advance to the next round.
While retirement may seem extreme, Smith’s frustration with Leonard’s injury history and its impact on the Clippers is understandable. Leonard is an incredibly talented player, but his inability to stay healthy has undoubtedly hurt his team’s chances of success.
The Claw’s Absence: Can the Clippers Overcome Absence of Kawhi Leonard and Stay Alive in the Playoffs?
Kawhi Leonard’s impressive performance in the first two games of the Clippers’ series against the Suns was nothing short of spectacular. He looked like the best player in the postseason, averaging 34.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals, all while playing 40.0 minutes per game. Leonard even took on the challenging task of guarding Kevin Durant on the other end of the court, showcasing his elite two-way abilities.
However, Leonard’s exceptional form was short-lived as he suffered a sprained right knee in Game 1, forcing him to miss Game 3 and subsequently ruling him out of Game 4 as well. It’s yet another setback for the Clippers, who have been plagued with injuries to key players throughout the season.
Despite Leonard’s absence, the Clippers will have to find a way to overcome the Suns in Game 4 to avoid falling behind 3-1 in the series. It’s a challenging task for a team that has already lost star player Paul George to a right knee sprain in the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers will need a collective effort from their remaining players to keep their championship hopes alive.