After revealing earlier this week he would be surprised if Kawhi Leonard plays again this season, coach Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs are doing what they tend to do best: move on to the next thing.
Leonard, a former Finals MVP winner and All-Star, 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.
As the Spurs visit the Denver Nuggets tonight (9 ET, NBA League Pass), Popovich spoke to the media this morning and said neither he nor the team can linger on the news about Leonard.
"This is the last 23 games of the season. It doesn't do any good to be wishing and hoping that somebody is going to be added that saves the day. That's all silly stuff," Popovich said. "These guys have gotta go play for themselves and do what they do."
When asked by San Antonio Express-News columnist Mike Finger what he would do if Leonard came to Popovich and said he's ready to play, Popovich said: "I'm not going to discuss that with you."
Just asked Pop what would happen if Kawhi came to him this week and said he’s ready to play.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) February 23, 2018
Pop: “I’m not going to discuss that with you. I love you, but I’m not.”
There is some good news on the horizon for the Spurs tonight, though. Veteran Manu Ginobili is expected to suit up and play after being out of the lineup since Feb. 13 with a foot injury. He took some time off during the All-Star break to rest the injury and told reporters yesterday he is feeling much better, writes David Flores of KENS5.com:
“I was pretty worried when It happened because I’ve never felt anything like that in the bottom of my foot,” Ginobili said after Thursday's workout. “Every time I was putting weight on it, it felt like a pinch. So, I stopped. We went to the X-ray and everything was fine, so it was just a matter of resting a little bit and it was fine again."
As it turned out, a few days vacationing in Costa Rica with his wife and three sons was just what the doctored order.
“I guess walking on the sand really helped the rehab, work on those muscles," Ginobili said smiling. “Sand, sun, walks, hikes, great. I'm fine now.”
After Thursday's practice in San Antonio, Ginobili told the San Antonio Express-News that the team is gearing up for life this season without Leonard:
"We know know who we are, and it's not like, 'Is he coming back next week?' " Ginobili said after practice. "At this point of the season, there is only twenty games left, so we've got to face the rest of the season as if he isn't coming back."
Forward Rudy Gay is also expected to be able to play tonight, too. If he does, it would mark Gay's first game since injuring his right heel in late December.
Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) is out for tomorrow night’s Spurs-Nuggets game. pic.twitter.com/NG1o7DcZQ6— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 22, 2018
Popovich said Friday he expects Gay to be under a minutes restriction of perhaps 15 to 20 minutes.
"He did a good job the last two days," Popovich said. "They say he's good to go and he feels good and he looked good in practice."
Additionally, Popovich hinted at changes to the starting lineup for the Spurs, but would not divulge what those changes might be.
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