Gregg Popovich would be 'surprised' if Kawhi Leonard returns this season

It looks like we may not see Kawhi Leonard suit up for the San Antonio Spurs again this season.

With the team reconvened after the All-Star break, head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Wednesday that he would be “surprised” if Leonard returned to the floor this season. Leonard has appeared in only nine games this season while nursing a quad injury that apparently just cannot get healthy.

Popovich would not officially rule Leonard out for the year, but at this point in the year, he wonders if it would be realistic for Leonard’s return to the lineup.

“I’ll be surprised if he returns this season,” Popovich said. “We only have X number of games left in the season and he’s still not ready to go. If by some chance he is, it’s going to be pretty late into the season. It’s going to be a tough decision. How late do you bring somebody back? I’m just trying to be honest and logical. I’d be surprised if he gets back this year.

Leonard, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, missed the season’s first 27 games before finally returning to action against Dallas on Dec. 13. From there, he saw action in eight of the team’s next 16 games, averaging 24 minutes per game in the process, before he was again shut down “for an indefinite period of time” on Jan. 17.

21 PHOTOS
Kawhi Leonard through his career
See Gallery
Kawhi Leonard through his career
San Diego State Aztecs' Kawhi Leonard (L) and Connecticut Huskies' Kemba Walker scramble for a loose ball during the second half of their NCAA West Regional college basketball game in Anaheim, California March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Kawhi Leonard stands with NBA Commissioner David Stern after being selected by the Indiana Pacers as the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark, New Jersey June 23, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard (L) goes to the basket against Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah (C) and Taj Gibson during the second half of their NBA basketball game in Chicago, February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan (C), Kawhi Leonard (L) and Manu Ginobili celebrate after a basket against the Miami Heat in the first half during Game 3 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in San Antonio, Texas June 11, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
May 31, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) attempts a shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter in game six of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is pressured by Orlando Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo (4) during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks the ball during the second quarter against the Miami Heat in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) and forward Kawhi Leonard (2) between plays against the Sacramento Kings during the first quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the second half in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Heat's LeBron James (R) looks to pass around San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard during the first quarter in Game 2 of their NBA Finals basketball series in San Antonio, Texas, June 8, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) celebrates in the locker room with the Finals MVP trophy after defeating the Miami Heat in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. The Spurs defeated the Heat 104-87 to win the NBA Finals. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) poses for a picture during media day at Spurs Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) gets his NBA championship ring from San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
April 22, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the second half in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Western Conference forward Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs (2) looks on during practice for the NBA All Star game at Ricoh Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Basketball NBA) *** Local Caption *** 2016-02-13T174655Z_1762526181_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_NBA-ALL-STAR-PRACTICE.JPG
Jan 12, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball over Los Angeles Lakers small forward Luol Deng (9) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) talks with head coach Gregg Popovich during the second half against the Sacramento Kings at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
May 14, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after an injury during the third quarter in game one of the Western conference finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Spurs 113-111. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 20, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (in suit) watches from the bench against the Golden State Warriors during the first half in game three of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2018; New York, NY, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts with San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) against the New York Knicks during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

That announcement from the Spurs came two days after Leonard went through warm-ups for the Jan. 15 game against Atlanta. It would have been his first time playing with fewer than two days of rest all year, but Popovich told reports that Leonard “didn’t feel right.” Two days later, he was put on ice once again.

A week later, an ESPN.com report emerged detailing an apparent level of “discord” over the handling of Leonard’s injury that has had a “chilling impact” on his relationship with the franchise. Words like “distant” and “disconnected” were used to describe Leonard’s rapport with the team.

Even with Leonard sidelined, the Spurs are right in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race. At the All-Star break, San Antonio sat in third in the West, but the No. 3 seed Spurs and the No. 8 seed Pelicans are separated by only three games in the standings.

Entering the break, San Antonio had lost five of its last six games, including three straight. As we enter the stretch run of the season, it seems like Popovich wants his team to press on with the distinct possibility that Leonard will not be a part of the equation.

“We’ve got to move on,” Popovich said. “At this point, the team has to realize that this is who we are, this is who we have. Wishing and hoping doesn’t do anybody any good. We’ve got to do what we can to be the best team possible as the season winds down.”

32 PHOTOS
Celebrities at the NBA All-Star Game
See Gallery
Celebrities at the NBA All-Star Game

"Property Brothers" star Drew Scott and fiancée Linda Phan

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Karlie Kloss and boyfriend Joshua Kushner

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Beyoncé, Blue Ivy Carter, Tina Knowles and Richard Lawson

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Chris Rock and Megalyn Echikunwoke

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Cardi B and Offset

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Queen Latifah

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Arnold Schwarzenegger

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Maria Shriver

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Jimmy Kimmel and Spike Lee

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Chris Tucker

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Kevin Hart and Eniko Parrish, with kids Hendrix Hart and Heaven Hart

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

DJ Khaled and Ludacris

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Snoop Dogg and Chance the Rapper

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Odell Beckham Jr.

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Lou Adler, Jack Nicholson and son Ray Nicholson

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Ellen Pompeo and husband Chris Ivery

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Anthony Anderson

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Cassie and Diddy

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Beck

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Nick Cannon and Justin Hartley

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Julianne Moore and husband Bart Freundlich

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Common

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

NBA Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jerry West and Bill Russell

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Ludacris, Chance The Rapper, Chris Rock, Chadwick Boseman, Common and Dave Chappelle

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Beyoncé, Blue Ivy Carter and Tina Lawson

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Chadwick Boseman and Floyd Mayweather

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

DJ Khaled and Fergie

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Michael Jordan

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Tracy Morgan

(Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jamie Foxx, Fergie and Ludacris

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Pharrell Williams performing the halftime show

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

– – – – – – –

Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.