Kawhi Leonard makes surprise Clippers preseason debut

Torrey HartYahoo Sports Contributor

NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard made his debut with the Los Angeles Clippers in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Denver Nuggets at home, contrary to reports he would do otherwise.

Leonard, who became an NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors five months ago, only appeared in the first quarter. He played 11 minutes, tallying seven points, six assists and a rebound in his team’s 111-91 loss. Head coach Doc Rivers had suggested in training camp that Leonard might not play in the preseason at all out of caution, and he was reportedly ruled out for the Nuggets game Wednesday night.

The Clippers released a behind-the-scenes look at Leonard suiting up to play, however, and in the short clip, you can hear Patrick Beverley hint at why Leonard ended up playing. Beverley makes a clever “board man gets paid” reference: “I guess the board man got bored, huh?” Beverley says, to which Leonard laughs, “Yes, I did.”

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Thus, Leonard played, and his 11 minutes were not without a little flare. He made his first shot, then shortly thereafter, picked up a back-to-back steal and three-pointer. The Clippers’ bench went appropriately wild.

Fans in attendance were understandably thrilled for the unexpected appearance, giving Leonard a warm welcome during his inaugural introduction at the Staples Center.

Despite Leonard’s sooner-than-expected debut, fans will likely still have to wait a few weeks longer to get a look at Paul George, who said he’s targetting a “November-ish” return after undergoing multiple shoulder surgeries over the summer.

Kawhi Leonard played his first quarter as a Clipper Thursday night in Los Angeles. (AP Photo)
Kawhi Leonard played his first quarter as a Clipper Thursday night in Los Angeles. (AP Photo)

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