San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich does not sound optimistic about star forward Kawhi Leonard's return for the stretch run.
Asked about Leonard's progress during Wednesday's practice, Popovich said, "I'd be surprised if he returns this season."
Asked to clarify why he feels that way, Popovich said, “Well, we only have X number of games left in the season and he’s still not ready to go."
"If by some chance he is it’s going to be pretty late into the season and it’ll be a tough decision how late you bring somebody back. That’s why I’m trying to be honest and logical. I’ll be surprised if he gets back this year.”
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports Leonard has been medically cleared to return from his right quadriceps tendinopathy. Wojnarowski also reports the Spurs left it up to Leonard to decide when to return and he has chosen not to:
Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the San Antonio Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said. If Leonard returns, it will be because he has decided he can manage the pain of the injury, according to the sources.
Away from the Spurs to pursue second opinions in New York, Leonard recently utilized the gymnasium inside the National Basketball Players Association headquarters in Manhattan for workouts, league sources told ESPN. The Spurs had team personnel accompanying Leonard in New York, sources said.
The injury, rehabilitation and timetable for a return has complicated the Spurs and Leonard's relationship, causing tension and fraying the fabric of what was once a strong partnership, league sources told ESPN. The uncertainty surrounding this season -- and Leonard's future, which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 -- has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.
Leonard has not played since Jan. 13 and has appeared in just nine games this season. Despite Leonard's absence, the Spurs are 35-24 and currently hold the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference with 23 games left in the regular season.