Posted on February 26, 2018, by Travis Pulver
This season has not been anything like what fans of the San Antonio Spurs had hoped it would be. However, in light of some recent news, it could turn around towards the end of the season. Should a few things go their way in the postseason, the year could still end in the NBA Finals. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Why? Rumor has it that Kawhi Leonard is targeting a return to action by late March.
Michael C. Wright and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Monday afternoon that Leonard would be returning to San Antonio to work at the team’s practice facility later this week. He has been in New York working out at the National Basketball Players Association headquarters gymnasium.
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Of course, with their last regular season game falling on April 11, that doesn’t leave him much time to get into game shape.
ESPN recently reported that Leonard had already been medically cleared to begin playing, but the Spurs had no intention of rushing him back. They made it clear that they were going to let him decide when he is ready to play—but had no idea if it would even be this season.
Last week, Spurs head coach Greg Popovich said he didn’t think Leonard would play this season (NBA.com):
“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.”
While the team looked good Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it goes without saying that the Spurs are not going to make much of a run in the playoffs without him. LaMarcus Aldridge has stepped up this season, but he is not dynamic enough to be the primary player on a championship contender.
Without him, while they have not looked like the Spurs fans know and love, they have been good enough. With Sunday’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, their record improved to 36-25. Prior to Monday night’s action, that was good enough for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. But they are only .003 ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Leonard’s refusing to play after being medically cleared has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. But many have tried to empathize with where he’s coming from. Being medically cleared doesn’t necessarily mean you are ready. It just means the doctors think you’re close enough. But that doesn’t mean that he feels like he’s ready.
If something doesn’t feel right to him, then he shouldn’t play.
While it will be easy for San Antonio fans to get excited about the news, they may want to temper their expectations. With the amount of time he’s been off, you’d hope his quad is fully healed. But if he pushes it too hard too fast, he could easily reinjure the quad. So, for now, the news is good. But when he returns and survives a few games– now that will be great news.
Then it’s back to square one—and a first-round exit for the Spurs.