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Kawhi Leonard returned, now season really begins for Clippers Reports: Pistons’ Cade Cunningham considering shin surgery Report: New York Knicks open to Rose, Quickley trade scenarios Watch Devin Booker drop 49, not enough against Markkanen (38) as Jazz win Antetokounmpo argues with Harrell, Philadelphia arena worker, then knocks down ladder postgame

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ANGELS – The Clippers season began Thursday night.

Within 15 games, Los Angeles was able to stay afloat. Elite defense (second-best in the league) and third-easiest schedule saw them go 8-7 despite the league’s worst offense to date.

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From the front office to the locker room, it looked like the Clippers were supposed to get serious on Thursday night – Kawhi Leonard returned after a knee pain that saw him sidelined for almost 42 minutes this season. Kawhi was a Clippers starter for the first time since Game 4 against the Jazz in the 2021 playoffs.

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It wasn’t pretty. Leonard finished with six points on 2-of-8 shooting, five rebounds and four assists in just under 25 minutes. To the Clippers’ credit, they didn’t force-feed him moments, they let the game come to him, but the rust was obvious.

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However, his presence changed the game as Leonard scored +26 points in the Clippers’ five-point win over the Pistons (96–91).

“He didn’t play very well offensively,” admitted coach Tyrone Liu. “But you know, his defensive influence is huge for us. So you know, with him on the floor we are a different team.

“I don’t know if many people knew about it, but the way he took fourth place and just calm demeanor, the way he wanted the ball, the way he got us into position.” Reggie Jackson spoke of Leonard’s impact on the game as the Clippers surged ahead to victory.

It was the first step, but the Clippers still have a lot to do.

“I feel like we need to be better at everything,” Leonard said. “Because of the timeouts, defensive rotations and of course offensive ones, we have to start shooting better. Just everything. I feel like we’re behind and we need to focus.”

The Clippers offense doesn’t have an identity yet (and they won’t Luke Kennard for a week or two with a tense calf). Liu knows what he wants: “racing, touching paint, kicking, swinging,” but more often than not, at the first sign of resistance, the Clippers retreated to isolated basketball. It’s been their default all season. The team needs to show a little more commitment to the system by picking seats for Leonard or Paul George isolation, and it needs some continuity.

However, only the seriousness of Leonard and George as scorers can create easy opportunities for others.

“So, having these guys, having all these weapons… your defense is really set against them. So this allows [Ivica Zubac] and I’m a light pick-and-roll, easy to read”, Patrick Beverly said after he scored 23 points on 7 of 12 shots against the Pistons.

Beverley admitted he’s still trying to adjust to playing with Leonard again, to what the Clippers look like with a healthy core. The Clippers also talked about how they still have 66 more games to figure it out – the NBA season is a marathon.

“He’s just a process person who’s just hoping you can get Kawhi and keep him on the floor for an extended period of time so we can kind of get our rhythm and rotation and try to see the team we’re actually going to be.” Lou said.

What does Lou see as the next step for Leonard?

“We play on Saturday,” he said.

Looking further with this team is not a luxury that Liu can afford. But he understands that the season has started in earnest for his team, and if they want to justify their pre-season picks as a potential contender in the West, they have a lot of work to do.

The Detroit Pistons started the season hoping to compete for a play-in spot, but they faltered and started 3-14. With this latest news, they may be the first team to turn to the Victor Vembanyama lotteries.

Cade Cunninghamwho has missed the team’s last five games, is considering shin surgery that could put him out of action for an extended period of time, according to multiple reports.

From James Edwards III and Shams Charania of The Athletic:

There is still hope that this last week of rest has quelled the inflammation and pain enough to return to the floor sooner rather than later, but this can still only be resolved with time. At worst, the chronic pain continues to persist, and Cunningham takes a route that causes him to miss an extended period. However, according to league sources, Cunningham is trying to turn every stone before he decides to have surgery.

Regardless of which route Cunningham takes, he is expected to be out indefinitely as everyone invested in the rising star’s future works to determine the best course of action for his long-term health.

Cunningham, the Pistons’ top pick in 2021, had an outstanding rookie season and impressed early in his second campaign, posting 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and six assists per game until he sat down with a sore shin.

Whether he gets surgery or not, if he misses an extended spell, it will leave the Pistons with one of the worst records in the NBA. Given the depth of talent at the top of next year’s draft board – not just Wembanyama, but Scoot Henderson, Nick Smith, Amen Thompson and others – the Pistons will need to consider what is best for the franchise’s long-term success. And it may not be many wins this season.

Knicks fans have been begging for help at point guard over the last couple of seasons.

This season with Jalen Brunson taking on the role and playing it well, the Knicks have enough depth to be willing to trade some of it – they’ll listen Derrick Rose or Immanuel Quickly suggestions, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Knicks have shown a willingness to include Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickly in trade talks, league sources say, to address the team’s oversupply at quarterback during the season.

Maybe Leon Rose and the front office can trade him for another player that Tom Thibodeau doesn’t want and won’t play.

Whether the Knicks can get a replacement player to really help them with Rose or Quickly right now is under discussion as both seasons are in decline.

Rose, 34, has struggled to find rhythm this season in an even more limited role (less than 14 minutes a night). Rose is averaging 6.8 points per game with a real shooting percentage of 50.8, well below the league average.

However, Rose has a close relationship with Thibodeaux, which could make Rose and the Knicks think more about a deal with Quickly, who is younger (23) and will generate more interest from teams. However, Quickly has also struggled this season, shooting 36.5% overall (49 percent shooting) and only 8.9 points per night. Quickly also defends the perimeter well, unlike Rose.

It all comes down to what teams are willing to offer guards. Rose has a $15.6 million team option for next season (making his contract expiring), while Quickly owes $4.2 million, after which he will become a restricted free agent. The Knicks may choose to keep Quickley for all the reasons other teams would prefer to trade him, but if the offer is seen as an improvement, they’ll pull the trigger.


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