Get well soon, Kawhi Leonard. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
UPDATE: 1/23/14, 2:30 p.m. ET: Kawhi Leonard's going to be sidelined for a bit, according to the great Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News:
Re-exam of Kawhi Leonard's fractured 4th metacarpal (rt. hand) confirms simple fracture; in splint and out 3-4 weeks
— Mike Monroe (@Monroe_SA) January 23, 2014
As Monroe's Express-News colleague Jeff McDonald notes, that's relatively good news, all things considered; had the fracture been displaced or more severe in nature, it could have required surgical repair, potentially putting San Antonio's starting three on the shelf for an even longer period.
A three-to-four-week timeline means Leonard will likely miss 10 to 15 games, including the bulk (or perhaps entirety) of the Spurs' annual "Rodeo Road Trip," a nine-game jaunt away from Texas that begins on Feb. 3 with a visit to the New Orleans Pelicans and takes Gregg Popovich's team clear to the other side of the All-Star break.
With Leonard out, Danny Green still on the mend and San Antonio's depth chart looking awful thin at the three, the Spurs could look to add another swingman to bridge the gap. The team announced Thursday that it had waived reserve forward Malcolm Thomas, clearing a roster spot for such an addition; ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that R.C. Buford and company are looking at bringing in Othyus Jeffers, who made one appearance for the Spurs during the 2010-11 season, on a 10-day contract. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound, 28-year-old product of Robert Morris University is averaging 22.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game for the D-League's Iowa Energy this season.
The hits just keep on coming for the San Antonio Spurs — small forward Kawhi Leonard left Wednesday's nationally televised matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder after suffering what the team called "a non-displaced fracture of his right fourth metacarpal," a bone below the ring finger on his shooting hand, making him the third Spurs starter to go down in the last three weeks.
Leonard sustained the injury while trying to separate from Thunder rookie Steven Adams with just under four minutes remaining in the second quarter. Be warned: It's kind of gross.
Leonard checked out immediately thereafter, finishing with three points, one rebound, one assist and one steal in 15 minutes of play.
The Spurs didn't release a timeline for Leonard's expected recovery. Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the team remains hopeful that a Thursday morning visit to a hand specialist will reveal that the third-year forward will not need surgery to repair the fracture; even if no surgery is needed, though, healing the fracture will likely require rest and immobilization, which could keep Leonard off the floor for several weeks.
That would be a problem for the Spurs, who are allowing 3.6 points more per 100 possessions in January than they did during the 2013 portion of this season. The defensive drop-off is due in large part to having played the last eight games without starting center Tiago Splitter, who's out with a sprained right shoulder, and the last five without versatile wing Danny Green, who's also dealing with a broken bone in his hand.
While Leonard hasn't taken the leap to superstardom that many predicted after his stellar performance in the 2012-13 playoffs, and especially against the Miami Heat in the NBA finals, the 6-foot-7 swingman remains the Spurs' top perimeter defender and an integral piece of San Antonio's team defense; the Spurs have allowed 98.6 points-per-100 with Leonard on the floor, compared with 100.9-per-100 without him this season. Losing a stopper as versatile as Leonard is bad news no matter when it happens, but it's especially problematic when you're already without two other key defensive pieces and rotation players, which now looks likely to be the case for at least the next week or so. It also feels like a little more of a shame for Leonard to hit the shelf now, considering his offense had just begun to really come on; he was shooting 60.3 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from 3-point range in nine January games heading into Wednesday's action, getting to the line a bit more frequently than in months past and generally looking more comfortable with a reduced role on the offensive end.
Leonard's absence becomes particularly noticeable when the Spurs' opposition features a top-notch perimeter scorer ... which made Wednesday a really bad time for Kawhi to break something. When Leonard left the game, Oklahoma City nightmare-bringer Kevin Durant had scored 12 points on 5 for 6 shooting with five turnovers. With Leonard gone, Durant duty became a by-committee affair, with Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Tony Parker and Cory Joseph each getting turns, and largely to no avail.
Durant scored 24 points in just over 24 minutes of playing time after Leonard went out, including a pair of late dagger 3-pointers that pushed the Thunder lead to 10 with 1:08 remaining, sending OKC to a 111-105 win that gives them sole possession of the best record in the Western Conference, and clinches the Thunder franchise's first season-series victory over San Antonio since before they were the Thunder and even before Tim Duncan left Wake Forest.
Durant finished with 36 points — his ninth 30-plus-point outing in a row, tying a career-best streak of scorching scoring that's been surpassed only by Kobe Bryant (2012) and LeBron James (2006) in the last 10 years — to go with seven rebounds and five assists, albeit against a career-high 11 turnovers. (What's sick is, as Ginobili noted after the game, given the circumstances and the turnovers, you could argue that the Spurs did about as good a job as can be expected on Durant right now.)
Reggie Jackson also starred for coach Scott Brooks, adding 27 points (13 coming in the fourth quarter) on 12 for 17 shooting, eight assists, two rebounds and two steals in the win, which improved Oklahoma City's record to 33-10. Parker led the way with a season-high 37 points for the Spurs, who fell to 1-8 the other teams in the top five of the Western Conference standings (and 1-9 against "elite" competition, if you include the East-leading Indiana Pacers).
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