While Kawhi Leonard is still several months away from returning to game action, fans got an exciting look into his development on Sunday afternoon. The LA Clippers held an open practice at USC's Galen Center, and Kawhi was in attendance. Not only did Kawhi attend the practice, but he was also seen getting shots up before it started:
Here, Kawhi can be seen nailing consecutive mid-range jumpers in sweats, a hoodie, and a backwards snapback. As far as public footage goes, this is the first time fans have seen Kawhi on the court since Game 4 against the Utah Jazz, when he suffered the partial ACL tear that ultimately required surgery.
Farbod Esnaashari of AllClippers recently revealed through sources that those close to the Clippers are cautiously optimistic about a potential return from Kawhi this season. The 2019 Finals MVP is reportedly ahead of schedule, with many teammates being impressed by the amount of progress he has made in such little time.
While the standard timetable for an NBA player returning from ACL reconstruction surgery is usually around a year, recent examples provide some insight into Kawhi's potential return date. The most recent example of a player recovering from a partially torn ACL, which is what Kawhi suffered, is Washington Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie, who was a member of the Brooklyn Nets at the time of his injury, suffered a partial ACL tear in December of 2020. As the Nets were progressing in their playoff run, there were reports that Dinwiddie could potentially be available for the NBA Finals, which were played in July.
Perhaps an even better indication that Kawhi could return this season is his own comments on media day. When asked about why he decided to sign a long-term deal with the Clippers this offseason rather than a 1+1, Kawhi said that "I wanted to secure some money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year. If I would have took the one and one, I probably would have not played just to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year."
While a return from Kawhi is still months away, even if he is ahead of schedule, all signs point towards him attempting a return at some point this season. The recent footage of him getting shots up is a positive development in that process.