NBA Playoffs 2018: Kawhi Leonard ruled out for Game 1 of Spurs-Warriors series

Those hoping for some kind of miraculous return for Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the Spurs' upcoming playoff series against the Warriors are going to be disappointed on Saturday. San Antonio's All-Star small forward has been officially declared out by the team on Friday. The news surprises few, but disappoints many.

It's been one of the NBA's weirdest sagas. Leonard has played in only nine games this season. He's been nursing tendinopathy in his quad throughout the season, and San Antonio has had some very non-Spurs-esque moments in the fallout of the injury, from locker room drama to players apparently taking veiled shots at the star.

Leonard's status is a storyline to monitor in the Spurs-Warriors series, with Stephen Curry already out for this round. His return would obviously be a much-needed spark for the Spurs, who enter a marquee showdown which would usually be saved for late in the playoffs in most seasons. Instead, this series has been reduced to a No. 2 vs. No. 7 first-round matchup after both teams faced off in last year's Western Conference finals.

Toward the end of the season, the Spurs were fielding a small starting five featuring Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson and LaMarcus Aldridge. Once that lineup was deployed and Pau Gasol was removed from the starting five, the Spurs went 10-5 to close out the season. It's not the most talented Spurs' team, but Gregg Popovich was a key factor in ensuring that this team made the postseason without its best player.

With that in mind, the Steve Kerr-Popovich matchup may just be the one to watch in this series, as they both deal with their respective injury reports. It's an unfortunate side of the game, and it's a shame we won't be seeing Leonard, but the Spurs' phrasing for Leonard's injury may be a sign of things to come. "Return from injury management" is going to spark a lot of conspiracy theories. However, the odds of Leonard playing again this season are shrinking by the day, as it appears they weren't saving him as a secret playoff weapon.

Spurs-Warriors will tip off at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, as the Warriors try to start their title defense on a strong note and the Spurs attempt to play spoiler.

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