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#pounditTuesday, February 7, 2023

Kawhi Leonard explains his philosophy on return from torn ACL

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

During the Los Angeles Clippers’ run to the Western Conference Finals in 2020-2021, Kawhi Leonard suffered a torn ACL. That injury caused him to miss the entire 2021-2022 season.

But here in 2022-2023, Leonard is back on the court for the Clippers and already making an impact, albeit in a limited role.

Leonard explained his limited minutes on Friday night and what it means for the health of his ACL.

“You gotta gradually play minutes in order to get the ACL strong. Once you start playing 38 minutes first game, it could easily weaken up,” Leonard told reporters. “I’m listening to the doctors with that.”

Most athletes, regardless of sport, can usually return from a torn ACL in 8-10 months. Procedures and rehab have made tremendous strides in recent years, but there often tends to be a lull initially. Whether it’s mental or physical, a player doesn’t truly return to form until they’re a year-plus removed from the original injury.

Perhaps the limited minutes and limited role for Leonard will help prevent against re-injury. The only adjustment he needs to make is a mental one, which is no issue at all after missing 82 games last season.

“This is how I started my career. That’s how I approached it, mentally. Act like I was in foul trouble and once I check in the 2nd quarter, it’s time to play basketball,” Leonard added, via Sports Illustrated.

As Leonard’s ACL strengthens, his role will increase.

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