LA Clippers' Kawhi Leonard Faces 'Increasing Doubt' for Game 1 Status vs. Dallas Mavericks

When the Dallas Mavericks face the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of their NBA playoff series, Kawhi Leonard may not play.
Mar 27, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is fouled while
Mar 27, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is fouled while / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — The Dallas Mavericks will take on the Los Angeles Clippers in the first game of their opening-round playoff series this Sunday. Kawhi Leonard’s availability remains uncertain, and it appears increasingly unlikely that he will play.

Leonard remained a limited participant in practice on Saturday and continued not to do anything involving contact. Given the demands of playoff basketball, it's natural that Leonard's status is facing increasing doubts.

Mar 27, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is fouled while
Mar 27, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is fouled while / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, there is "increasing doubt" that Leonard will be available to play Game 1 of the Clippers' playoff series against the Mavericks.

The initial uncertainty regarding Leonard's availability surfaced on Saturday following Paul George's remarks, "When he's ready, he'll be ready. ... I do think at some point he will be with us."

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue kept his comments about Leonard's status vague, emphasizing that the team is currently uncertain but has prepared for any scenario.

“We don’t know yet," Lue said. "But we gotta prepare both ways.”

Lue did acknowledge the Clippers have settled on a fifth starter to replace Leonard if the superstar wing proves unable to play, but understandably, did not elect to reveal his choice to the media.

Not only is Leonard clearly a dynamic talent on both ends, but his presence adds complexity to the Mavericks' handling of matchups. If Leonard is unable to play, it's simpler to account for fewer perimeter options with wing defenders like P.J. Washington and Derrick Jones Jr. in the starting group.

With George, Leonard, and James Harden sharing the floor, it's challenging to have three impactful wing defenders in the game at once if Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are both playing, requiring one guarding a more difficult matchup and dealing with screening actions.


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Grant Afseth

GRANT AFSETH

Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for MavericksGameday.com and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at grantafseth35@gmail.com.