San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said Kawhi Leonard is in the final stages of his rehab process from a quad injury.
Through training camp, the preseason and 22 games (counting Friday night’s matchup), the San Antonio Spurs played without Kawhi Leonard. He injured his quad in the offseason, and has not appeared on the court.
Details on Leonard’s return were kept quiet for most of the past two months, including the extent of the injury and when he suffered it. Despite the lengthy absence, the Spurs performed well, going 14-7 through 21 games, which led to a former NBA point guard questioning how good the San Diego State product is.
On Friday afternoon, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich revealed potentially the most significant update on Leonard’s quad ailment. According to Jeff McDonald of MySanAntonio.com, Popovich said his star small forward is in the “last steps of rehab,” referring to playing half-court and full-court sessions of 5-on-5 basketball:
“Those are the last steps,” Popovich said. “That’s what Tony (Parker) did before he came back.”
Popovich added, Leonard must “convince me” when he’s ready to go, given his plan to stay conservative on the former MVP candidate’s return. When that will be, remains to be seen.
Either way, this is an update Spurs fans have waited for, even with the team’s success. Leonard developed into arguably one of the NBA’s best players, and while he may not be “missed,” having his scoring acumen and defensive presence matters. Especially against the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, the high-powered teams of the Western Conference.
Now, it turns toward Leonard’s potential return date. “Last steps” doesn’t signify the gap between this update and a full comeback, but it may not be that much further away. Aside from Friday’s game in Memphis, the Spurs will play 14 games in December, so there’s plenty of opportunities for him to be back before 2018.