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Gregg Popovich: ‘I’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard returned this season’

Popovich isn’t optimistic that he’ll get his team’s best player back soon.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t expect Kawhi Leonard to return this season, he told reporters on Wednesday. Popovich did not officially rule out Leonard’s return, but said that to be ‘honest and logical,’ a return this year seemed unlikely.

Here’s video from Popovich addressing the media on Wednesday.

Leonard has only played nine games this season beginning in mid-December and concluding with 28 minutes against the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 13. After that, the Spurs announced that Leonard would once again be shut down indefinitely, an issue that once again related to the troublesome right quad injury that caused him to miss training camp, preseason, and two months of the regular season.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard has actually been medically cleared to return, but has decided not to:

If Leonard returns, it will be because he has decided he can manage the pain of the injury, according to the sources.

Here’s a timetable of Leonard’s injury, which has been strange and mysterious, especially since Tony Parker supposedly suffered a similar but worse version of the same ailment, only to return earlier this year.

San Antonio has been successful this season even without Leonard, who finished third in MVP voting last year, but they have recently slipped into a tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Since Dec. 30, San Antonio is only 10-13 in their 23 most recent games.

If Leonard can’t return this year, it would be easy to see the Spurs continue to slip and certainly hard to imagine them as realistic postseason contenders.