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Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has not played since March 31 due to persistent knee soreness, and his status for the playoffs remains unclear. Speaking to reporters following the team's loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday night, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Leonard will "hopefully" be ready for Game 1 of the first round. "That's what we want to see," Lue added. 

Leonard had missed only six games this season prior to sitting out on April 2 with knee soreness. There wasn't much concern at the time, and the Clippers were hopeful he would return for the next game. Instead, his absence has stretched to nearly two weeks, and the anxiety levels are rising in Los Angeles. 

Clippers president Lawrence Frank offered more details on Leonard's situation on Friday. 

"With Kawhi, he's dealing with inflammation," Frank said. "It's no secret he's had a couple of surgeries to that knee. It's not uncommon over the course of it where you deal with inflammation. With inflammation, it limits your ability to make some natural basketball moves, so he's working his tail off, the staff is working their tail off to try to help with the inflammation."

The 68 games Leonard played this season are the most he's appeared in since 2017 and the third-most in his career. As Frank noted, he has dealt with a number of serious knee problems in recent years, including a torn ACL in the 2021 playoffs that kept him out of the entire 2021-22 season and a torn meniscus that cut short his 2023 playoffs. Both of those surgeries were on his right knee, which is the same one that is bothering him now. 

Prior to this issue, Leonard was enjoying a terrific season. He averaged 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game on a career-high 52.5% shooting from the field. In fact, he was just a few missed free throws away from joining the vaunted 50/40/90 club. He made his sixth All-Star appearance and will likely add a sixth All-NBA honor as well. 

The Clippers have already been locked into the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and will play the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. This is the third time in five seasons that the teams will open the playoffs against each other. While the Clippers won each of the first two meetings, neither series was easy, and this one won't be either, especially if Leonard is out or less than 100%.

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