San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich still sounded as if he had no clue whether Kawhi Leonard would ever rejoin the team for this year’s playoffs when he was asked about it Sunday. Leonard has missed all but nine games this season with a right quadriceps injury.
“You’ll have to ask Kawhi and his group that question,” Popovich said, per ESPN. “So far, they say that he’s not ready to go. So we can’t do anything until that happens. Then, we would have to decide what’s going on from there. But that’s the first thing that has to happen.”
The thinking around the league was that Leonard would not be coming back this season, and on Monday we got word from Yahoo’s Shams Charania that the two-time NBA defensive player of the year would indeed sit out the rest of the season as he continues his rehabilitation in New York.
“Leonard has made strides recently in training and is focused on regaining his full health,” Charania reports.
Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season, came back in mid-December but then lasted only until Jan. 13, the date of his last game. He has spent much of his time away from the team in New York, where his medical staff is located. Leonard’s decision to rehab in the Big Apple was approved by the Spurs’ medical staff, Charania reports, but Popovich still seems at least a little bit salty about it, considering the blunt talk about “Kawhi and his group.”
Popovich wasn’t alone. In March, teammate Tony Parker commented that he had successfully come back from the same type of injury, only his was “a hundred times worse” than Leonard’s.
The seventh-seeded Spurs lost their playoff opener to the Warriors by 21 points on Saturday and, if that game is any indication, appear headed for only a brief stay in the playoffs. Once its season is over, San Antonio likely will have to make a decision about what to do with Leonard. According to multiple reports, a number of other NBA teams would have a keen interest in acquiring the 2014 NBA Finals MVP via trade, perhaps angling to swing a deal sometime around the NBA draft in June.