Kawhi Leonard practices with Clippers, but status for Game 1 is unclear

It’s the same old song when it comes to Kawhi Leonard and his availability for the Clippers when they meet the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs on Sunday at Crypto.com Arena.

It remains uncertain — a mystery even — if Leonard will play in the first game of the best-of-seven series.

He missed the last eight games of the regular season because of right knee inflammation.

The Clippers had their first practice Tuesday in preparation for the Mavericks, leaving the media to ask coach Tyronn Lue if Leonard would fully practice.

“No, not fully,” Lue said. “But he’s going to be a part of practice.”

Lue was asked how much Leonard can participate in practice.

“Um, he’s going to do a quarter of the practice,” Lue said.

LIke running, Lue was asked.

“Just a quarter of the practice, yeah,” Lue responded.

Is it because Leonard hasn’t played in an NBA game since March 31?

“Yeah, just bring him along slowly,” Lue said.

By the time Sunday rolls arrvies, Leonard will have missed three weeks of NBA game action.

So, Lue was asked, is this about ramping things up for Leonard?

“Yes,” Lue said.

Then came the big question: Will that ramp-up result in Leonard playing Sunday against the Mavericks and their sensational backcourt of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving?

“We’ll see,” Lue said.

Leonard is the Clippers best player and has won two NBA championships — one with San Antonio (2014) and the other with Toronto (2019) — and his presence will be needed if Los Angeles is to get by the improved Mavericks.

Leonard averaged 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 68 games this season. He shot 52.5% from the field and 41.7% from three-point range.

He was at his best in the playoffs with Toronto, averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game while earning the Finals’ most valuable player in 2019.

He was great for the Clippers last season in the playoffs, averaging 34.5 points. But Leonard played in just two games, unable to finish the series against the Phoenix Suns because of a meniscus tear in his right knee.

The Clippers will need a healthy Leonard after two of his teammates, Paul George and James Harden, recently questioned the team’s identity in less than a week’s time.

When George and Harden did, Lue didn’t take kindly to their remarks.

“Yeah, we found it,” Lue said of an identity.

And what is it?

“Win,” Lue responded.

How do you go about winning?

“Play hard,” Lue said. “Play hard every position. Physicality defensively. Offensively, space and play with pace, get into our sets quicker and the last seven out of eight games we’ve shown what we can do.”

Lue was asked if he got that point across to his players after he told the media that their identity at that time was, “We’re soft.”

“What do you think?” Lue responded.

Considering the Clippers won seven of eight games after those comments — the Clippers lost their last three games but they rested players — the answer was yes.

“Thank you,” Lue said, smiling.

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