SAN ANTONIO -- His official status remains questionable for a spot on the court at the opening tip. But there is nothing at all uncertain about Kawhi Leonard’s mindset for Saturday's Game 3 (9 ET, ESPN) of the Western Conference finals.
“If I feel good, I'm going to play,” he told the assembled media at the Spurs’ practice facility on Friday. “It's getting better. I'm just day-to-day. Just got to keep waiting day-to-day.”
Leonard had to leave the opening game of the series early in the third quarter with a badly sprained left ankle and did not play at all in Game 2.
The Spurs’ All-Star forward has not been on the court only to shoot since the injury. He has not run hard, simply watched his teammates practice and undergone constant treatment by the medical and training staff.
Leonard said a pregame evaluation on Saturday will determine if he is able to move around freely and properly.
“If I feel good, I'm going to play."
“Just seeing if I can run and at least be myself on the court,” Leonard said. “Don't want to hobble around or shoot off balance shots. Just want to be able to push with both legs. Just that, really.”
With the Spurs down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, the leading scorer said he will balance his desire to get back into the fray against any long-term effect on his career.
“Definitely, but we're eight games away from our ultimate goal," Leonard said. “That's just my mindset right now, just trying to get better.
“I'm not sure, I mean, it's still not ready. “It's just questionable for tomorrow. I could be feeling way better. We'll see tomorrow.”
Leonard left Game 1 with 7:55 left in the third quarter when in the span of two minutes he first tweaked his ankle by landing on the foot of teammate David Lee, who was sitting on the bench. Then he attempted another jumper from the left wing and came on the foot of Golden State center Zaza Pachulia, who came to contest the 3-point shot.
He would not offer an opinion on the debate about whether the foul was intentional or whether Pachulia is a dirty player.
“I'm just focused on getting healthy and getting ready to play for Game 3,” Leonard said. “I'm not worried about that.”
The Spurs held a 23-point lead when Leonard left the game and lost 113-111. Then they were blown out 136-100 in Game 2 when all he could do was watch on TV from the team hotel.
“I mean, it's frustrating,” Leonard said. “You work all year to get to this point. Being able to not help the team win a game, or just being able to play. It's all very frustrating.
“Our offense was a little stagnant at times, defense wasn't there, and they also got a lot of rebounds. Obviously their guys played great, but it's stuff that we could do to help ourselves either win the game or even make it close.”
Since leaving the West Coast, Leonard was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in career, but that’s no salve on the wound of not being able to help the team.
Leonard maintained it was strictly about his physical readiness for Game 3 and he did not have to overcome a mental hurdle about possibly re-injuring the ankle.
“No. If I'm going to be like that, that means I'm hurt and I shouldn't be playing,” he said. “Just a mental mindset of going out there and just preparing myself to win the game, really.”
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