Five days ago San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich told the media, “On Kawhi, I’ll be surprised if he returns this season,” when speaking about the Spurs moving forward with the possibility of Leonard not returning this season.
Fast forward to today and Leonard may in fact surprise Popovich. According to a report from Michael Wright and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com, Leonard will return to working out with the team this week, with the hope that he can return sometime in March.
The report states Leonard spent three weeks in New York seeking outside consultation on his right quad injury and now he’s ready to slowly work his way back to the objective of being able to participate in 5-on-5 workouts, which would then translate to playing in actual games again. Leonard’s return will continue to be based on his comfort level managing the injury, per the report.
The Spurs have 21 games remaining until the playoffs arrive, so Leonard will need to progress quickly in order to try to get back on the court with enough time to build some chemistry with a team that has already played 85% of their season without him.
Some timelines to consider: by March 3, there will only be 20 games left. By March 13, there will be 15 games remaining. By March 23, the Spurs would have just 10 games to incorporate Leonard if he’s ready to play by then.
For the Spurs, the POSSIBILITY that Leonard might return can surely provide them some hope for the long haul this season as they try to stay afloat in the grueling Western Conference. While the Spurs do sit in third place out West at the moment, they’re within a handful of games of the other teams in 4th through 10th place.
The Spurs’ schedule to end the season will also remain difficult since 16 of their final 21 opponents are .500 or above by record.
While Leonard’s return this season still isn’t guaranteed to happen, there’s at least a positive light for the Spurs going forward that by the end of the season, they may be able to finally have the team they assembled over the summer ready to compete.