Popovich Would Be "Surprised" If Leonard Returned This Season

Dec 30 2017 Detroit MI USA San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard reacts after a play during the first quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard has missed all but nine games this season with a right quad tendinopathy injury, and he might not be back all season. They return from the All-Star break on Thursday with a game at Denver.

The 26-year-old has only made nine appearances for the Spurs this season but was ruled out "indefinitely" by the team as he struggled to overcome the quad injury he suffered in the summer.

Pop just said he'd be surprised if Kawhi returns this season. People are definitely trying to fill the role as best they could. "We had our run in the East with Miami, Golden State is having their run". Not to mention, Kawhi could come back sooner than predicted, the Spurs could switch spots in the standings with another team such as the Wolves or some other unforeseen scenario could happen preventing the possibility (or preference) of a Jazz-Spurs matchup at all. But we still have to go out there and compete every night. "We are concerned about teams criss-crossing the country in the first round, for example", he 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. He made his debut on December 12 and lasted all of nine games before announcing he'd be out indefinitely. He later missed three games with the shoulder injury, then returned to the lineup on January 13 against Denver, scoring 19 points in 28 minutes.

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Nevertheless, based on what we know now and if this speculation about Kawhi Leonard not returning holds true, then that's absolutely the opponent that the Jazz should desire heading into this year's playoffs.

"I'll be surprised if he returns this season", Popovich said.

"We've got to move on, the team has to realize that this is who we are, this is who we have and this is who's going to play". Wishing and hoping doesn't do anybody any good. "We've got to do what we can to be the best team possible".

With the All-Star break coming to an end, the San Antonio Spurs are now focusing on competing for the championship this year but will have to do so without their star player.



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