Kawhi Leonard’s Rehab Process Moving Slower Than Expected
The San Antonio Spurs may be off to a 7-4 start, but the cloud of uncertainty surrounding Kawhi Leonard’s injury situation continues to hang over the franchise. Following Tuesday’s 120-107 win over the L.A. Clippers, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters that Leonard has had a tough time with the rehabilitation process.
Long Rehab Process
Leonard, who has missed the first 11 games of the season with right quadriceps tendinopathy, has not been able to practice with the team since entering the season on the injured list. (Popovich said via ESPN), “It’s just been more difficult for him to get through the rehab routine.”
There are several hurdles still left for Leonard to climb before he will be medically cleared to return to the team. Popovich added that he would not want Leonard to rush his way back. He said, “I wouldn’t want him to go right from rehab to jumping on the court. He’s got to go 3-on-3, 5-on-5, feel comfortable because, in the end, that confidence is what’s going to…anybody who’s been out for any length of time has to get that back. Even if the doctors say, ‘Yep, you’re ready to go.’ You’re really not until you’re mentally ready to go.”
Leonard has not played since Game 1 of last season’s Western Conference Finals. Leonard was forced to leave that game after injuring his ankle on a play involving Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia. Leonard missed the rest of the series due to the ankle problem, while he subsequently injured his quad at some point during the offseason.
Parker To Return Sooner
The Spurs have also been without point guard Tony Parker, who is continuing to rehab from a quadriceps injury of his own. Parker ruptured his left quadriceps tendon during the Spurs’ Western Conference Semifinals series last spring against the Houston Rockets. The former All-Star underwent offseason surgery to repair the quadriceps tendon, though his rehab has gone more smoothly than Leonard’s to this point.
Parker has already spent time on a rehab assignment with the Spurs’ G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs. He also participated in the Spurs’ pregame shootaround prior to the aforementioned game against the Clippers. The team is not rushing Parker back, either, as he is expected to return to the court at some point in December.
The Spurs have been streaky so far this season without two of their best players available. San Antonio opened the season 4-0 before dropping four straight games against the Magic, Pacers, Celtics and Warriors. Since that 20-point drubbing against Golden State, San Antonio has reeled off another three-game winning streak to pull their record to 7-4 in the early going.
Leonard, who is entering his seventh NBA season, finished third in MVP voting last year behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The San Diego State product averaged a career-high 25.5 points along with 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 74 games last season. Leonard also shot 38 percent from three-point range, which was the second-best mark of his career.
The Spurs have been spreading the wealth offensively in Leonard’s absence. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the team in scoring by a wide margin at 22.6 points per game, but no other player on the roster is averaging 14 points or more. The Spurs will have a couple of days off before hosting the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday in San Antonio.
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