In plain terms, the San Antonio Spurs aren’t close to the same team without Kawhi Leonard that they when the All-NBA forward is at full strength. San Antonio’s early-season performance in Leonard’s absence was both impressive and admirable but, in recent weeks, the team’s effectiveness has dwindled to the point where the Spurs are in actual danger of missing the 2018 NBA Playoffs.
However, there was a ray of light in that Leonard was projected to return to action on Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans. Sadly, though, that hope evaporated on Tuesday with word that Leonard was not, in fact, ready to play just yet and, with that as the backdrop, head coach Gregg Popovich shed additional light later in the day on his star’s status.
“Like anybody else, he’s frustrated,” Popovich told Michael C. Wright of ESPN. “He wants to be playing. He’s competitive. It’s been a tough year for him in that regard. But the first step is he’s got to be cleared by his medical staff that he’s seeing. And until he gets cleared, we can’t make a decision on when he’s coming back. So once he gets cleared, then he and I can sit down and talk, and see what we think about an appropriate time to come back. But that clearance has to be obtained first. Nothing overrides the medical staff. That’s a negotiation between the player and the coach to figure out what’s best.”