Kawhi Leonard has yet to suit up this season for the San Antonio Spurs, and head coach Gregg Popovich described his rehab as “difficult.”
It’s been a bit more than three weeks since the 2017-18 NBA season kicked off, and the San Antonio Spurs are off to a 7-4 start. However, Kawhi Leonard, who was also absent during the preseason, hasn’t yet appeared in a game for his team while dealing with right quadriceps tendinopathy.
“He’s coming along slowly, for whatever reason,” said Gregg Popovich to reporters. “It’s just been more difficult for him to get through the rehab routine.” Popovich then began to talk about Tony Parker, who tore his quad back in May and is recovering from surgery but has been practicing with the Spurs G-League affiliate.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay have been the driving forces behind San Antonio’s relatively-hot start. Their offense is hampered severely without Leonard, and they rank 18th in offensive rating with 105.4 points per 100 possessions. Last season, a healthy Kawhi propelled them to ninth overall in the same category.
Popovich’s defensive-first coaching style has been huge for the Spurs. They’ve always been elite on that end. Despite missing the league’s best perimeter defender, San Antonio is allowing just 100.6 points per game, the sixth-lowest mark in the NBA.
There’s no reason for the organization to panic. Keeping Leonard away from the court until he’s 100 percent healthy is paramount. Moreover, they wouldn’t need him until the postseason, and that’s about five months away. Given the circumstances, Pop doesn’t see any reason to rush back Kawhi.
“I wouldn’t want him to go right from rehab to jumping on the court,” explained Popovich. “He has to go three-on-three, five-on-five, feel comfortable. Because in the end, that confidence is what… Anybody who has been out any length of time has to get that back even if the doctors say, ‘Yep, you are ready to go.’ You really aren’t until are mentally ready to go.”
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