* Tonight on TNT: Raptors vs. Spurs, 8 ET
The Toronto Raptors are unsure what kind of environment star forward Kawhi Leonard will receive tonight in his return to San Antonio. They're also unsure if star guard Kyle Lowry will end up missing another game, too.
The team upgraded Lowry to questionable for tonight after listing him as doubtful as of yesterday. Raptors coach Nick Nurse told reporters before Thursday's shootaround that there is "an outside chance" Lowry will play tonight.
Per @Raptors_PR, Kyle Lowry is questionable for tonight. Was doubtful as of yesterday. Nurse said there was “an outside chance” he’d play before shoot-around.— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) January 3, 2019
Kyle Lowry has been upgraded to questionable, per the Raptors. Have a hunch he’s going to play today. There’s little doubt Lowry will want to be on the court to go up against his best friend, DeMar DeRozan, in their first game as opponents since the trade.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 3, 2019
The guard, who is averaging 14.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 9.8 rebounds per game, has missed Toronto's last four games because of a back injury. He received pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory injections for his lower back pain on Dec. 29 and has been out since Dec. 26.
As for Leonard, he is making his return to San Antonio for the first time since last season and playing in his first game at AT&T Center after spending his first seven NBA seasons with the team. Leonard last played at AT&T Center on Jan. 13, 2018, notching 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals in a 112-80 win against the Denver Nuggets.
Leonard wasn't sure what kind of reception he'd get from Spurs fans tonight and when asked what his reaction would be if it is a rude one, he said, "It will only make me a better player."
Per Tom Orsborn of the Express-News, Leonard fielded questions for about five minutes at the Raptors' shootaround Thursday morning. He told reporters he could become emotional during warmups before tonight's game. Here's more from Orsborn on what Leonard had to say:
Asked why he wanted out of San Antonio, Leonard said, "I'm not going to discuss that here today."
Asked if he wished things had gone differently, "At times, yeah, but I mean it's a new year, new season. I'm just looking at what is in front of us right now."
Leonard did acknowledge that his time with the Spurs "meant a lot" in terms of his growth as a player.
"I put up blood, sweat and tears wearing that jersey...I put a lot of work (in) here," he said.
On July 18, the Spurs traded Leonard (and Danny Green) to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick in 2019. That ended a lengthy saga with Leonard over his nagging quadriceps injury that shelved him for all but nine games in 2017-18. How his injury was handled reportedly stirred up bad feelings between Leonard and the Spurs, leading to him demanding a trade.
When asked if he had a message for Spurs fans, Leonard said: "Just thanks for supporting me, Kawhi, the basketball player, and that’s it, really. Just thanks for the support."
Asked why he wanted out of San Antonio, Leonard said, “I’m not going to discuss that here today."...Asked if he wished things had gone differently, “At times, yeah, but I mean it’s a new year, new season. I’m just looking at what is in front of us right now.”— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 3, 2019
Asked if he had any message for the fans, Kawhi said, "Just thanks for supporting me, Kawhi, the basketball player, and that’s it, really. Just thanks for the support." #Spurs— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 3, 2019
If Lowry does suit up, it will only the 22nd time this season he and Leonard have played together.
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