Kawhi Leonard Put on Blast After Suns Eliminate Clippers

Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

Getty Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers thought they had a championship-contending roster when they mortgaged their future to land Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in 2019, but so far, they have yet to even make it to the NBA Finals. After suffering another early playoff exit, ESPN NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith says that the Clippers should force Leonard to retire.

“I’m not in any way questioning the legitimacy of Kawhi Leonard’s injury, but he is the absolute worst superstar you could possibly have on your team. He’s barely ever there. And on top of it all, he does nothing to market or promote your franchise…Steve Ballmer and the Los Angeles Clippers should force Kawhi Leonard to retire,” Smith said on “First Take” on April 26.

“Here’s the difference between him and a Paul George or various other people, we see them get hurt. We’ll watch Kawhi drop 38 in one game, 31 in Game 2, walk off the court, and the next thing you know Ty Lue gets a ‘he ain’t available today…and he ain’t available the next game.’ You don’t know why, but you hear, and you hear, and you hear stories.”

JJ Redick Comes to Kawhi Leonard’s Defense

Kawhi has a long list of injuries dating back to the 2017 Western Conference Finals when he landed on Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia’s ankle, which ruled him out for the series. In 2021, Leonard suffered a torn ACL that held him out of play for several months and as a result, has had to deal with several nagging injuries.

He appeared in just 52 games this season, but injuries are one of the more unfortunate parts of sports, which is also unavoidable. As a former NBA player who dealt with injuries throughout his career, ESPN NBA analyst JJ Redick came to Kawhi’s defense.

“I mean this in the nicest way possible to both of you, but listening to each of you right now, it’s very obvious that you’ve played zero high-level basketball and you do not understand the requirements of doing that. A sprained ankle is very different than a sprained knee. A sprained knee for someone who has torn a quad tendon, and who has torn their ACL, is very different than someone playing on a hobbled ankle in the 1970s. It’s a terrible analogy,” Redick said in response to Smith.

“You say, ‘I’m not questioning his injury. You just said, ‘We saw Paul George get hurt. We didn’t see Kawhi get hurt.’ Let’s give the guy some credit. He did it in Game 1. He went out there and battled Game 2. Guess what? If he could play, he would play. “Do you not have empathy for someone who has come back from two major leg injuries? Do you not?”

Devin Booker Sounds off on Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is arguably the player facing the most pressure in these playoffs. After winning back-to-back titles with the Golden State Warriors, Durant left in the 2019 season to join the Brooklyn Nets with Kyrie Irving. In three and a half seasons the star duo won one playoff series. After demanding a trade to the Suns this season, a team just two seasons removed from an NBA Finals berth, some believe these playoffs are championship or bust for the two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.

In his first season as Durant’s teammate, Suns star Devin Booker says playing with someone of KD’s caliber makes him want to play at a higher level in a joint effort to reach the mountaintop.

“I had that man on my wall, man, growing up,” Booker said of Durant via The Ringer.
“I had a Fathead of Kev. … I always said he was my favorite player. We played against each other, and that was my thing coming into the league. When I get to play against my idols, I try to treat every game the same, but I’m going to bring a little extra that night, a little extra physicality. I just want people to feel my presence, and I think he had a high respect for that.”