The game was not the same without these stars.
As the 2022 NBA preseason commences, some of the league’s most popular faces are taking the court again after dealing with injuries in 2021-22.
The Los Angeles Clippers, for example, had two stars return to the fold in what is expected to be an important bounce-back year for a franchise that missed out on the 2022 playoffs.
Let’s take a look at who NBA fans will be seeing on the floor as they gradually get back into form ahead of the regular season:
Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
As aforementioned, Leonard ended up missing the entire 2021-22 season after suffering a partial tear in his ACL in the 2021 playoffs. The 31-year-old forward, who is a two-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP, came back against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday to post 11 points, four rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes.
Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets
After the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets made headlines last year for their trade that involved James Harden and Ben Simmons, the latter never suited up for his new team as he looked to improve his mental health. In poetic fashion, Simmons played his first game for Brooklyn at home against the visiting Sixers, where he put up six points, five assists and four rebounds in 19 minutes.
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Williamson struggled to recover from a lingering foot injury that kept him out all season. He is looking to return to the court against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. If he can stay healthy and improve on his old form, the Pelicans could make a Memphis Grizzlies-esque jump in the Western Conference this season.
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokić has his running mate back. Jamal Murray returned on Monday following his rehab from an ACL tear in 2021. The 25-year-old guard scored 10 points to go with two assists and two rebounds against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 15 minutes of action.
John Wall, Los Angeles Clippers
Wall was the other aforementioned Clipper, though he just signed with the franchise over the summer. He did not play a single minute with the Houston Rockets last year as the two sides mutually agreed on him not being a part of the team’s future, but an in-season trade never materialized. Wall also played against Portland on Monday and logged five points, three assists and a rebound in 14 minutes.
James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors
He’s the only player yet to prove himself as a solidified star in the NBA, but the Golden State Warriors took him No. 2 overall in the 2020 draft for a reason. He missed all of last season due to a meniscus tear in his right knee, but showed some promising flashes during the Warriors’ preseason trip to Japan, including a 20-point, nine-rebound game on 8-for-11 shooting. If he can stay healthy, Golden State’s ceiling and odds of contending again increase.