Clippers star Kawhi Leonard will return, start vs. Pistons

Kawhi Leonard will return and start versus the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night, coach Ty Lue stated.

Leonard was previously listed as out, but his status was upgraded to questionable at the LA Clippers’ Thursday morning shootaround.

After playing in two of the first three games of the season, coming off the bench in both games, Leonard experienced stiffness in his surgically repaired right knee at a morning shootaround before a game at Oklahoma City on Oct. 25. He has missed 12 straight games since.

Leonard did not play all of last season after tearing his right ACL in Game 4 of the Clippers’ second-round series versus Utah on June 14, 2021.

Leonard is averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds this season.

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Paul George (left hand contusion), who was listed as questionable for the Pistons game, will also start.

Luke Kennard will miss the first of at least a couple games with a right calf strain. The guard will be reevaluated within a week.

Lue said he did not like the process of bringing Leonard off the bench midway through the second quarter for his first stint of action like the Clippers did in his first two games this season. The design of that was to let Leonard to finish the fourth quarter for a long stretch and not have him sit too long in between playing in real time.

“That was too nasty,” Lue described of how it was to manage. “Yeah, I didn’t like it. I mean, you got the best player, you look down sometimes the game’s going for so long, you forget and then [assistant coach Brian Shaw] taps you on your shoulder, six [or] seven minutes go in the second quarter and [says], ‘Kawhi’s ready.’

“I forgot because the game’s going. So I just thought the best thing for us and to establish a rhythm, start him would be best.”

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