Kawhi Leonard’s season appears to have reached the end of the road, with the forward expected to miss the remainder of the post-season as he continues to recover from a lingering injury that has kept him out since January.
Leonard was not on the court on Saturday (April 14) as San Antonio lost Game One of their first-round series 93-112 to the Golden State Warriors. According to league sources quoted by Yahoo! Sports, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP has been rehabbing in New York, where his medical staff is based and his doctors have not given him the green light to return.
The sources also said Leonard’s condition has significantly improved recently and that he remains focused on returning to full fitness.
The 26-year-old’s rehab program in New York has been fully approved by the Spurs’ medical team but San Antonio center Pau Gasol admitted the players had little information about their teammate.
“Kawhi is rehabbing at his own pace with his own people,” he told The Undefeated. “He hasn’t been around us. I’m sure he is trying to get healthy. I’m sure he is trying to get back. But that’s all I know. Really, as a teammate, as a player, that is all I know.”
Following the defeat to the Warriors, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich told reporters he did not know how long Leonard would be out for, suggesting the question should be asked to “Kawhi and his group.”
Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season with quadriceps tendinopathy, before making his debut on December 12 against the Dallas Mavericks.
However, after playing nine of the following 17 games, on January 13 the Spurs opted to sideline him indefinitely after he reportedly told his franchise he was not comfortable playing during rehabilitation.
The return did not materialize, prompting Spurs guard Manu Ginobili to suggest Leonard would not return this season, while Tony Parker appeared to question the extent of Leonard’s injury, indicating the quad injury he suffered during last year’s playoffs was “a hundred times worse” than the one afflicting his teammate.
Leonard’s protracted absence from the court is a serious blow to the Spurs and their chances of progressing past the Warriors, given he averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game last season, and will do little to dispel rumours over his future.
According to USA Today's Sam Amick, a number of teams are keeping an eye on the two-time All Star and could offer him a way out of San Antonio in the summer.
The Los Angeles Clippers in particular are understood to be working on a trade package which would be centered around the Spurs’ small forward.
The chances of San Antonio trading Leonard have also increased after reports this summer that the Spurs will not offer the five-year extension worth $219 million that the player wants.
However, a Western Conference league executive believes the Spurs should persevere with Leonard. "It would be a mistake,” he said when asked by the San Antonio Express-News about the possibility of trading Leonard, as reported by MySanAntonio.com.
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