Through three games, Kawhi Leonard remains on a minutes restriction for the San Antonio Spurs. Monday’s game only highlighted this, with a notable disappearance.
Fans clamored for the return of Kawhi Leonard, who only started to play meaningful minutes one week ago. This was after missing the previous 27 games for the San Antonio Spurs, due to a right quad injury suffered in the offseason.
Since then, the Spurs played four games, with Leonard appearing in three of them (he missed one for rest). All of them saw him on a minutes restriction, as head coach Gregg Popovich said, before the Klaw’s first game back, according to ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.
Leonard played a combined 49 minutes through these three games. The first two where he played in 16 and 17, respectively, saw him put up 13 and 12 points. He looked rusty, but that was expected from someone who hadn’t played meaningful basketball since May.
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The third game played out somewhat similar, with another 16 minutes vs. the Los Angeles Clippers. However, these came in the first half, as Leonard didn’t play in the final 24 minutes. It wasn’t due to injury, either. According to USA Today, Popovich told reporters “[Leonard] didn’t get hurt again, so, he’s OK.”
Given how long the San Diego State product played in his previous two appearances, there’s likely a strict minutes cap in place. Given how conservatively the Spurs handle injuries, it’s no surprise and could be like this indefinitely.
Monday’s limited time resulted in Leonard’s double-digit scoring streak’s end, too. After getting just seven points on 3-for-7 shooting, it concluded a 110-game streak.
So it looks like Kawhi Leonard's double-figures scoring streak will end at 110 games, which ranks third in franchise history behind David Robinson and George Gervin.
— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) December 19, 2017
The Spurs won’t play until Wednesday night, with a game at the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s the first of a back-to-back, so it’s possible Leonard’s not seen in one of them, identical to the situation on Dec. 15 and 16. Either way, it’s likely a waiting game for him to be the full-time contributor fans were accustomed to. How much longer remains to be seen.