Gregg Popovich doesn’t make public pronouncements without a purpose. When he spoke out last week saying he would be surprised if Kawhi Leonard was back this season, there were two audiences. One was the guys in the locker room now, basically saying “don’t bank on a savior coming back, get this done yourself.”
The other was Kawhi Leonard himself — get back here now or we are moving on. There was legitimate tension between the Spurs and Leonard’s camp, although it got overblown in some quarters. This wasn’t a divorce in the making, this was spending a night on the couch while things cooled down.
Leonard is now back with the Spurs working out and plans to return to the court next month, reports Michael C. Wright and Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN.
San Antonio star Kawhi Leonard plans to resume working with the team at the Spurs’ practice facility this week — with the hopes of returning to the lineup sometime in March, league sources told ESPN….
Leonard isn’t expected to immediately start engaging in full five-on-five practices with his teammates, but the goal is to advance toward that level of engagement in the near future, league sources said.
Leonard had been out for the start of the season with this injury until a 9-game return that started in December. By mid-January Leonard himself pulled the plug, not feeling right, and went to New York to get a second opinion from other specialists.
Now he’s going to give it a go again.
If Leonard is back for the playoffs and in his usual form, the Spurs become a much bigger threat in the West (not a contender, but dangerous).
If he proves to be healthy, it also could end the speculation about Leonard’s future and the tension between him and the Spurs. Leonard is eligible to be offered a “designated veteran” supermax extension this summer (the same deal that Stephen Curry and John Wall got). It would be an extra year and as much $50 million more guaranteed than any other team can offer — you think he’s walking away from that? Just like Popovich smoothed things over with LaMarcus Aldridge last summer when he demanded a trade, Pop will do the same with Leonard. Those two still think alike.