Kawhi Leonard said he feels good physically after making his return from injury in the Los Angeles Clippers' victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Having missed the entirety of last season with an ACL injury suffered in the 2021 playoffs, Leonard came off the bench to play 21 minutes, scoring 14 points with seven rebounds in the Clippers' 103-97 triumph.
Leonard's return after a 16-month layoff provides a significant boost for the Clippers this season and the two-time NBA champion praised the atmosphere across the roster that helped to push him through his recovery.
"I feel good. We did an amazing job, the Clippers staff, putting together a team to get me out here quickly," he said on court after the game, "I just give it all to them, they match my motivation of getting back so that is all that you can ask for from them as a group."
Leonard added that the start off the bench was the best option, stating: "Like I told [coach Tyronn] Lue, whatever way with his subs and what he thinks how it should go without me affecting the game and causing people to get out of rhythm, I'm for it. I just want to win.
"Starting I would have been sitting like 35 minutes real time, so that's way too long, so I just felt that this was the best situation."
The Clippers boast an impressive amount of depth this year, with Leonard, Norman Powell, Luke Kennard, Robert Covington and Terence Mann all providing options at small forward, which Leonard says helps to balance responsibility across the team.
"It's amazing, we've seen it tonight, everyone is out there contributing on defense and on offense, as a leader, we've got to know who is on our team and that we don't have to do it every night," he added.
"We just have to show up in the big moments in the fourth quarter. We're just trying to all be stars in our roles and I think that is going to help us moving forward."
The Clippers will continue to be patient with Leonard, however, with the priority being that he is able to play at his best level come the spring, with head coach Tyronn Lue pressing caution.
"There's going to be some times when he looks like Kawhi Leonard and some times where he’s just trying to get a feel and not playing well," he explained.
"He has to understand that as great as he is, it's not going to come overnight. We've got to be patient with him in that regard and he has to be patient with himself as well."