Clippers rule out Kawhi Leonard (knee) for Game 1

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard was ruled out for Game 1 of Sunday’s first-round playoff series against the visiting Dallas Mavericks with inflammation in his right knee.

The injury forced Leonard out of the Clippers’ final eight regular-season games and continues a trend of knee issues keeping the two-time NBA champion out of recent playoff series.

Knee injuries knocked Leonard out of the 2021 and 2023 playoffs, with the Clippers quickly eliminated after his departures. When knee surgery kept him out of the 2021-22 season, Los Angeles didn’t even make the playoffs.

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue tried to strike a positive tone before Game 1, despite missing a significant piece of his roster.

“I just think it’s on everyone collectively; it’s not one or two players, it’s everybody,” Lue said of covering for Leonard’s usual contributions. “Everyone had to step their game up, and we’ve shown we can do that. … We’re very capable. We’re prepared for each situation, so here we are. We’re ready to go.”

Leonard did manage to play in 68 regular-season games this season, his most since playing in 74 games during the 2016-17 season for the San Antonio Spurs.

The 32-year-old Southern California native averaged 23.7 points with 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists this season. In 696 regular-season games over 12 seasons, Leonard has averaged 20.0 points with 6.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Leonard won NBA titles in 2014 with the Spurs and 2019 with the Toronto Raptors. He was named the MVP of the NBA Finals both years.

A six-time All-Star, Leonard has been named to the All-NBA first team three times. The veteran was recently included on the Team USA roster for the upcoming Paris Olympics.