Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 5 of the Western Conference semi-final series on Wednesday with a knee injury.
The Los Angeles Clippers confirmed Leonard has a sprained right knee and won’t play in Game 5 against the Utah Jazz. The Athletic reported the team fears Leonard suffered an ACL injury.
Sportsbooks scurried to adjust odds early Wednesday, sliding the Jazz from three-point favorites to seven-point home favorites with Leonard out.
ESPN reported Leonard’s status for the remainder of the best-of-seven series is very much in doubt.
It is a massive blow for the Clippers, who have split the first four games of their series with the top-seeded Jazz and are trying to reach the West finals for the first time in franchise history. Leonard is a two-time NBA finals MVP, and is averaging 30.4 points on 57% shooting in the playoffs.
The Clippers were 11-9 without Leonard during the regular season. They’re 6-1 so far in the playoffs when he scores at least 28 points, 0-4 otherwise.
Leonard can opt out of his current contract and return to free agency at the end of the season. There is precedent for an All-NBA type of talent reaching a contract year and receiving maximum value.
The Nets pulled off a sign-and-trade to get Kevin Durant from the Golden State Warriors in July 2019 despite a ruptured achilles. He signed a four-year, $164.25m deal – the max contract under NBA rules at the time – and did not play in 2019-20.
The same summer, Leonard signed a three-year, $103m deal with an opt out in 2021. He has played for the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Clippers.
The five-time All-Star turns 30 on 29 June.
A first team All-NBA selection this season, Leonard left Game 4 against the Jazz with a right knee injury, but said “I’ll be good” for Game 5.
Leonard’s injury appeared to occur with about 5:20 left in Monday’s contest, when he was fouled on a drive by Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic. Leonard was dribbling into the lane when he was bumped, and his right knee appeared to buckle slightly. He grimaced in some discomfort, missed the two free throws that were awarded following the foul, but remained in the game for 45 more seconds.
He checked out with 4:35 remaining and did not return; the Clippers led by 16 points when he checked out and the lead remained in double figures the rest of the way.
Game 7, if necessary, would be back in Salt Lake City on Sunday. If the Clippers-Jazz series ends Friday, Game 1 of the Western Conference finals between the LA-Utah winner and Phoenix will be Sunday.