After missing the first two months of the season due to a nagging quad injury, Spurs’ forward Kawhi Leonard is finally set to return to the lineup Saturday as the team takes on the Phoenix Suns. The organization said they will wait to see how Leonard, who has not played since last season’s Western Conference Finals, does in practice on Friday before making a final decision. However, the Spurs have to be feeling confident about Leonard’s status after his recent comments:
I think they told you guys that I’ve been playing 5-on-5. So that’s where I’m at right now. It’s been good. Just still, just gotta go through a few more processes of doing that. I should be back soon.
There are reasons to be cautious about this update, as there have been multiple reports in the past that have talked about a Leonard return, only for him to sit out another couple weeks. The injury, which was announced by the team on September 30th, has kept Leonard off the court longer than anticipated. After multiple speculations of a Leonard season debut being shut down, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich seemed perplexed about the severity of the injury. He also compared his ailment to the since-returned Tony Parker:
What’s really strange is that Tony (Parker) has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been fantastic in Leonard’s absence, also spoke on what the team will be aiming for when Leonard returns to the lineup, according to San Antonio-Express News:
The wait for Kawhi Leonard’s return may finally be coming to an end. League sources tell the Express-News Leonard could make his season debut for the Spurs on Saturday against the Phoenix Suns barring any setbacks.
According to sources, Leonard participated in a final workout session Thursday. The team will re-evaluate Leonard on Friday. If all goes well, and Leonard feels OK, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year will travel with the team to Phoenix after Friday’s game against Boston to play in the second game of a back-to-back.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Kawhi Leonard is targeting a return to the Spurs on Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks.
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is now targeting his return on Tuesday against Dallas, league sources tell @mikecwright and me. He has yet to play this season with a quad injury.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 8, 2017
Leonard averaged a career-high 25.5 points and 3.5 assists per game with the Spurs last season, and also contributed 5.8 rebounds all while finishing as a finalist in Defensive Player of the Year voting. An MVP candidate heading into the season, Leonard will obviously play a huge role in helping San Antonio continue to add to their record 20-year playoff streak.