Popovich on Leonard’s rehab: ‘He’s just coming along more slowly for whatever reason’

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on from the bench against the Sacramento Kings during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at Golden 1 Center on October 27, 2016 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

AT&T CENTER – San Antonio Spurs All-Star Kawhi Leonard will miss his 11th game of the regular season Tuesday when the Spurs host the Los Angeles Clippers.

For Leonard, he’s yet to play even a preseason game with this season’s Spurs team since he was diagnosed with right quadriceps tendinopathy during training camp. The Spurs have not put out an official timetable for Leonard’s return, but Tuesday, in his pregame press conference, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich shed some light on how Leonard just hasn’t progressed like Tony Parker (left quadriceps tendon surgery).

“He’s just coming along more slowly for whatever reason,” said Popovich. “It’s just been more difficult for him to get through the rehab routine, so his body hasn’t reacted the same way. Tony’s at the point where he’s been going 5-on-5 and that kind of thing. So, he’s not totally confident. It’ll be a few more weeks, but he’s definitely going in the right direction, and so is Kawhi, it’s just taking him a little bit longer.”

Parker has been getting back by participating in smaller group drills like 2-on-2 and he’s even practicing with the Austin Spurs. When asked if Leonard will also gradually make his way back to the court once the doctors give him the green light, Popovich said the Spurs will approach Leonard’s return like that have with Parker.

“Sure, I wouldn’t want him to go right from rehab to jumping on the court,” said Popovich. “He’s got to go-3-on-3, 5-on-5, feel comfortable. Because in the end, that confidence for anybody that’s been out a length of time, (he) has to get that back, even if the doctors say, ‘yup, you’re ready to go,’ you’re really not until you’re mentally ready to go.”

When asked what the biggest challenges have been of playing without Leonard and Parker, Popovich responded: “Kawhi’s our best defender and our best scorer. Tony’s our best pick-and-roll player.”

Spurs rookie guard Derrick White is out as well for the time being with a right wrist fracture. The Spurs did not put a timetable on his return either, but Popovich did provide some more details on White’s injury status.

“No,” said Popovich of White not needing surgery, “he just has to have a cast for about 4 to 5 weeks.”



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