SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs are targeting Saturday’s road matchup against the Phoenix Suns as the date to bring back star forward Kawhi Leonard, according to sources, but a firm decision on that hasn’t yet been made.
Leonard vaguely discussed on Monday the right quadriceps tendinopathy that has kept him out of all 25 of San Antonio’s games, saying “soon to come” when addressing his possible season debut.
Leonard will work out with the team both Thursday and Friday, with the final decision hinging on its evaluation of him and how he feels Friday after San Antonio’s morning work at the club’s facilities. “I’m feeling pretty healthy right now,” Leonard said Monday. “I think they told you guys that I’ve been playing 5-on-5. So that’s where I’m at right now. It’s been good. Just still, just gotta go through a few more processes of doing that. I should be back soon.”
The San Antonio Express-News reported Leonard might return Saturday.
The Spurs had discussed bringing back Leonard as soon as Monday, and there was an expectation that he might return during San Antonio’s three-game homestand, which began Monday against the Pistons and ends Friday with the Celtics, before the team hits the road for Saturday’s game in Phoenix.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has said all season “sooner rather than later” when asked about Leonard’s possible return, but joked Monday that the “sooner” is “really much sooner now.”
A two-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard averaged career highs in points (25.5) and assists (3.5) last season, while also averaging 1.8 steals. Leonard hasn’t suited up to play for San Antonio since Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, a series he couldn’t continue due to a sprained ankle.
As part of the recovery from quadriceps tendinopathy, Leonard has worked through a rehabilitation process comprised of several steps such as individual work, 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills, before receiving clearance to practice with the team. Leonard had been working out with Tony Parker, as he recovered from a ruptured quadriceps tendon, as well as former Spurs players Matt Bonner and Tim Duncan. Popovich said that Leonard practiced with the team prior to its Dec. 1 win at Memphis, and took part Wednesday in shootaround in advance of San Antonio’s 117-105 win over the Miami Heat.
“I just took it day to day, week to week,” Leonard said of his recovery. “I was just focused on my injury. Just me not being able to play the game, it was a little frustrating. But my team is doing a great job right now of holding their own. A lot of people stepped up in the process, and it’s going to be great for us in the long run.”