Clippers: Pierce’s controversial career advice to Kawhi has a kernel of truth

Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round exit marked the latest disappointment for a franchise that is used to them. After acquiring all-stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George nearly four years ago, most expected them to be title contenders, but injuries have quickly derailed those expectations. George missed the entire first round of this year’s playoffs, while Leonard missed the final three games of their series against the Phoenix Suns with a right meniscus tear.

That was just the latest in a long history of injuries for Leonard, which has led to many questioning whether the Clippers can rely on him to be healthy. Celtics legend Paul Pierce recently weighed in on Leonard’s situation. “If I were him, I would retire,” Pierce was quoted as saying.

Pierce has been known to say some questionable things since his own retirement, but even if Leonard doesn’t take his advice, there may be some truth to what Pierce is saying. After all, Leonard has missed a staggering 25% of his games since being drafted in 2011. Also, even despite the Clippers doing load management with Leonard to try and keep him healthy for the playoffs, he still wasn’t available when they needed him the most.

Clippers: Kawhi Leonard’s injury history could affect the length of his career.

Worse yet, Leonard turns 32 this summer, and the leg injuries, including some possibly chronic or degenerative ones, suggest he probably won’t play into his mid-late 30s like Pierce did. With two years remaining on his contract, it’s fair to question whether he should continue his career if the same injuries continue to recur.

It’s also worth mentioning that some of Leonard’s game is predicated on his athleticism, which will wane as he ages, and the injuries won’t help. He will likely still be able to bully opposing wing defenders in the post or utilize a screen to get a pull-up, but it could really affect him on the defensive end.

Leonard is a two-way superstar, but what happens when he begins to slip on that end of the floor? The answer is that his on-court value drops. It’s questionable whether the Clippers or another team would sign him to a multi-year deal if they couldn’t count on him to play semi-consistently, and he isn’t the same player when he actually does.

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Ultimately, Leonard appears highly unlikely to take Pierce’s advice at this point in his career. Even still, his injury track record suggests that he may not have the same longevity that we’ve seen from other stars.