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Kawhi Leonard could return from injury Friday vs. Blazers

The Spurs are about to get one of their most important players back.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

After missing 17 of the last 19 games with a torn ligament in his shooting hand, Kawhi Leonard could return to the Spurs' lineup Friday against Portland.

"It's up to Pop," he told the San Antonio Express-News' Dan McCarney. "It feels good, back to almost 100 percent. That's what we've been waiting for, to relieve some of that pain and get the ligament scar tissue healed up. That's been about a week now so I think I'm ready to go."

The Spurs have struggled more than usual this season, and the absence of last year's NBA Finals MVP is a huge part of that. San Antonio is 15-7 with Leonard in the lineup and 9-9 without him. Their defense gives up nearly 10 more points per 100 possessions when he's not on the floor.

The Spurs are seventh in the Western Conference as of now, but don't be surprised if Leonard's return helps them rattle off a bunch of wins and move up the standings.