Kawhi Leonard return from injury this season would be a 'surprise,' Popovich says

The San Antonio Spurs have played the majority of the season without their best player, and it appears they're planning on finishing the year with Kawhi Leonard on the sidelines.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said on Wednesday that he would be "surprised" if Kawhi Leonard plays again this season.

"Kawhi ... 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, and it's gonna be a tough decision, you know, 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.

"We've got to move on. The team has to realize that this is who we are, this is who we have, this is who's gonna play. Wishing and hoping doesn't do anybody any good. We've gotta do what we can to be the best team possible as the season winds down."

Leonard has missed all but nine games this season due to a right quad injury he suffered last season, and he was listed as out "indefinitely" by the team in mid-January as he continues to recover.

It's seems like Popovich's statements were less of a proclamation and more of a realization, figuring that Leonard would not have enough time to get back to his old self, even if he were able to return this season. Knowing how cautious the Spurs generally are with injuries, they'll likely want to keep Leonard off the court until he's close to 100 percent healthy, and that is getting more and more unlikely to happen this season.

Leonard finished second in MVP voting after the 2015-16 season, and finished third last season after averaging a career-high 25.5 points per game. Despite Leonard's injury, the Spurs have put together a 35-24 record this season, good for third place in the Western Conference playoff standings. 

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