When the 2022-23 NBA season began, the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers were seen as the two teams to beat in the Western Conference. And on the eve of their first matchup of the season — the first of four — neither team finds itself where it wants to be.
The Warriors, at 8-10, are currently outside of not just the playoffs, but the play-in tournament. Poor defense, one of the worst benches in basketball, and a clumsy attempt at balancing two timelines has them looking nothing like the team that hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy less than half a year ago.
The Clippers are much better at 11-7, thanks to a three-game winning streak. But the fifth seed in the West — just half a game out of the play-in tournament — is not where they envisioned being. The main reason for that is that Kawhi Leonard has only played in five of the team’s 18 games.
And it will be five out of their 19 games after tomorrow. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Leonard — already a two-time Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, five-time All-Star, and seven-time All-Defense selection, despite battling tons of injuries — will miss Wednesday’s game due to a sprained ankle.
Clippers‘ Kawhi Leonard has a right ankle sprain and will miss Wednesday's game vs. Warriors.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 23, 2022
This is a break for the Warriors, as Leonard, when healthy, is perhaps the most complete player in the NBA, and a certified two-way superstar. But it’s a bummer for NBA fans, who would have loved to see these teams clash at full strength. They might both be having disappointing seasons, but the Clippers with a healthy Leonard, and the Warriors when at home, look like the versions of those teams that we expected to see when the season began.
Golden State is 7-1 this year at Chase Center, and will look to add to that on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. PT, in a game televised on ESPN.