San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played a game since January 13. And it’s unclear if he’ll be back any time soon, because he’s headed to New York for rehabilitation for the second time this season.
Leonard has a lingering right quad injury that’s persisted throughout most of the year. The Spurs only have 6 games left in the regular season for him to return and get in shape before the playoffs.
San Antonio is currently fourth in the Western Conference with a 45-32 record. The Spurs medical staff is anxious to see if he can get back on the court, and they’ve traveled to New York to meet with him. He was also doing rehab in the Big Apple before the February All-Star break.
Leonard has received criticism for seeking medical treatment away from the team’s staff. Most notably, Spurs point guard Tony Parker made a thinly veiled reference about his team having the best medical staff in the game. Parker also made comments that indirectly question Leonard’s willingness to get back on the court.
“I’ve been through it,” said Parker. “It was a rehab for me for eight months. Same kind of injury, but mine was 100 times worse. But the same kind of injury. You just try to stay positive.”
Spurs Planning Like Leonard Won’t Play
The 26-year-old has been in the MVP conversation the past three seasons and is one of the league’s top two-way players. He also won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP during San Antonio’s title run.
Many are questioning Leonard’s future with the team. He’s also eligible for a 5-year, $217-million supermax contract extension in the summer. And he’ll be a free agent in the 2019 offseason.
Things have not gone well between Leonard and his team this year. He’s been disconnected from the squad ever since his injury. And he’s had multiple times where he almost returned to the team, only to continue sitting out.
According to ESPN, Leonard was even the subject of a team meeting on March 17. Spurs forward Manu Ginobili told reporters afterward that the team would plan as if Kawhi won’t take the court again.
“He is not coming back,” said Ginobili. “For me, he’s not coming back, because it’s not helping [to think Leonard is returning]. We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys made us fall for it.
“But we have to think that he’s not coming back, that we are who we are, and that we got to fight without him. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he is ready for the jump ball.”
Leonard Hasn’t Trusted San Antonio During Injury Process
He has now sought outside opinions on his injury twice now. And the organization is perfectly fine with this, because they’re mostly concerned with players’ long-term health.
But it doesn’t look good when Parker, who had a more-severe ruptured left quadriceps tendon, stuck with the San Antonio doctors. He’s now making his return after 208 days away from the court.
“Tony exhibited great trust in our whole process from the very beginning because of the lack of historical knowledge of this,” said Spurs general manager R.C. Buford.
“I was anxious to make sure that we got the world’s best experts engaged before the surgery started. And Tony made a comment to me as we were analyzing resources: ‘I’ve trusted Dr. [David] Schmidt my entire career, and why would I want to trust anybody else?'”
Leonard initially consulted the Spurs medical staff about his injury. But he began seeking outside consultation when his quad wasn’t healing as quickly as he’d hoped. He’s since continued workouts in an effort to get back on the court. But he backed off a heavy workload recently, citing that his leg wasn’t responding well.
“You’ve Got to Make an Effort”
“Sometimes you feel like an alien to the core group, and you’ve got to fight through it,” said Ginobili. “You’ve got to make an effort to still be around and be part of the everyday topics, the good things and the bad things. You’ve got to make an effort.”
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was also asked about if he thinks Leonard still feels part of the team.
“It’s the same as a player who is the 13th man sitting on the end of the bench,” said Popovich. “The more you’re participating, the more you feel like you’re a part of the deal.
“But anybody who’s injured, sitting on the bench or not playing, feels a little bit different, of course. That’s just human nature.
“He’s a nice guy. I love the kid. What am I gonna do? Sometimes he wants to rehab in the room, getting stronger; use the time wisely instead of watching us out there.”
Spurs Still Doing Well without Leonard
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge has put up outstanding numbers during this stretch. He’s averaging 28.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, and shooting 57% from the floor. His play has San Antonio in position to make the playoffs for the 21st consecutive year.
The Spurs have had a number of role players help what appears to be another playoff team. Rudy Gay (11.3 PPG), Pau Gasol (10.3 PPG), Patty Mills (9.9 PPG), Danny Green (8.9 PPG), Ginobili (8.7 PPG), and Parker (8.0 PPG) are all making important contributions.
2018 San Antonio Spurs Futures (from GTBets)
San Antonio doesn’t look like the same powerhouse team they’ve been in the past. But they still have a solid chance to compete in the West. You can see their futures for both winning the West and the NBA Championship below.
2018 Western Conference Champion Odds
- Golden State -115
- Houston +110
- Oklahoma City +2000
- Portland +2000
- San Antonio +2500
- Utah +7500
- Minnesota +15000
- New Orleans +20000
2018 NBA Championship Futures
- Golden State +110
- Houston +150
- Cleveland +800
- Toronto +1000
- Boston +2200
- Oklahoma City +3000
- Portland +3500
- Philadelphia +5000
- San Antonio +5000
- Indiana +15000
- Miami +15000
- Milwaukee +17500