Lue: Plan to have Kawhi Leonard for Clippers' playoff opener

ByOhm Youngmisuk ESPN logo
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

LOS ANGELES --LA Clipperscoach Tyronn Lue said Wednesday he is preparing for the Dallas Mavericks as if he will have star Kawhi Leonard to start the first-round playoff series.

Lue said Leonard did not participate in any 5-on-5 during Tuesday's practice. But asked whether there is any part of his game plan preparation that does not have Leonard on the court to start the postseason, Lue gave the most positive sign of Leonard's status so far.

"I'm preparing for him, to have him on the court," Lue said.

Lue, though, continued to be noncommittal when asked whether Leonard will play Sunday in Game 1.

"We don't know yet," Lue said.

Leonard missed the final eight games of the regular season with inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee. Lue said before Wednesday's practice that the team and its medical staff would determine how much Leonard would be able to do in the session. Lue said the medical staff had to see how Leonard was feeling after going through a quarter of practice Tuesday.

"We just take it day by day," Lue said. "He's progressing. He's getting better. We don't have a timetable."

Lue confirmed Tuesday that Leonard was being ramped up for the playoffs after having not played since March 31 at Charlotte. Asked whether there is any concern that Leonard won't be a full go for Game 1 if his ramp-up goes as planned, Lue said he isn't sure yet about Leonard's workload.

"Letting medical take over, and whatever is the best thing for Kawhi, making sure you protect him first," Lue said. "But whatever is best for him is what we're going to do. Not sure of the minutes yet, or how long he'll be able to play. So we just kind of wait and take it day by day."

When it comes to James Harden, the Clippers point guard is ready to go for the postseason. Despite missing three of the past four games with inflammation in his right foot, Harden has been practicing and said he has something to prove in the playoffs.

Harden scored 42 or more points in two games during thePhiladelphia 76ers' Eastern Conference semifinals loss to theBoston Celticslast season. But in the final two losses to Boston, he shot just 7-for-27 and had a total of 22 points and 16 assists. He had 9 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds while shooting 3-for-11 in Philadelphia's 112-88 loss in Game 7 at Boston.

"I mean I always want to play well in the playoffs," Harden said. "I've had some not great games, but I have some really good games. So for me, I think the goal is to win, and that's the only thing that I'm missing at the highest level as far as my NBA career.

"Of course, I want to play well individually and then I want our team to play well. So I think it's my job as one of the leaders on this team is to make sure our guys are fulfilling their potential and maximizing what they bring to our team to the best of their ability, game by game."