Popovich: Spurs will be ‘surprised’ if Leonard plays this season

Pain management is the issue for Kawhi Leonard, and head coach Gregg Popovich is not expecting to see his best player back on the court with the San Antonio Spurs this season.

“I’d be surprised if he returns this season,” Popovich said on Wednesday.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from his right quad tendinopathy. However, Leonard is not yet ready to get back on the court.

“Well, we only have X number of games left in the season and he’s still not ready to go,” Popovich said. “If by some chance he is it’s going to be pretty late into the season and it’ll be a tough decision how late you bring somebody back. That’s why I’m trying to be honest and logical. I’ll be surprised if he gets back this year.”

Leonard spent 10 days in New York prior to the All-Star break consulting with a specialist for a second opinion on the injury, according to the report. He recently worked out at the National Basketball Players Association headquarters in Manhattan and was accompanied by Spurs personnel to New York.

Leonard made his season debut Dec. 12 but played only nine games. The Spurs announced Jan. 17 that he would be out indefinitely.

The two-time All-Star, who finished third in MVP voting last season, is averaging 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds this season.

“We’ve got to move on,” Popovich told reporters Wednesday at the team’s practice. “The team has to realize that this is who we are, this is who we have. … Wishing and hoping doesn’t do anybody any good.”

Popovich did not say the team was officially ruling the two-time NBA defensive player of the year out for the remainder of the season.

Following a strong start to the season, the Spurs have struggled. San Antonio (35-24) entered the All-Star break just 10-13 in its past 23 games but still in third place in the Western Conference.

–Field Level Media