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San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard could return as early as Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans, ESPN reports.
If he is able to return next week, it will mark a big step in a saga that has seen Leonard miss a surprising amount of time with a lingering quad injury surrounded by reports that he has had disagreements with team doctors over how to handle the injury and speculation that there was discord with the team.
Leonard played nine games after missing the first 27 games of the season with the leg injury, but went back to the sideline on Jan. 13th and hasn’t played since.
Head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters in February that he did not expect Leonard to return this season. Just days later, ESPN reported that Leonard, who had been in New York seeking a second opinion on his injury, planned to return.
“I’ll be surprised if he returns this season,” Popovich said on Feb. 21. “We only have X number of games left in the season, and he’s still not ready to go. If by some chance he is, it’s going to be pretty late into the season. It’s going to be a tough decision. How late do you bring somebody back? I’m just trying to be honest and logical. I’d be surprised if he gets back this year.”
Leonard confirmed last week with reporters his intent to return to the court this season and expressed a desire to remain in San Antonio for the rest of his career.
#Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard finally talks for the first time this season. Talks about his future with the team, his relationship with Pop, and how he is handling his possible return this season. pic.twitter.com/zeFkimPCLr
— John Elizondo (@johndelizondo) March 7, 2018
“The progression that I’m making has been great,” Leonard told reporters. “[The pain] is diminishing. It’s hard to explain, but I’m definitely better. I feel better, and I’m feeling more comfortable.”