Spurs' Kawhi Leonard will reportedly return next week against Pelicans

It's been a year full of ups and downs for Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, coach Gregg Popovich said he was preparing his team to play the rest of the season without their All-NBA forward.

It was later reported that Leonard might return by the end of March, and now, according to ESPN's Lisa Salters and Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard is expected to rejoin the Spurs' lineup on Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

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

Wojnarowski reported earlier that Leonard had been cleared by the Spurs' medical staff and that the decision to return was entirely up to him. So it appears that Leonard finally feels comfortable enough with the injury to play again, which could be a shot in the arm for San Antonio as they continue to fight for the postseason.

The Spurs had dropped seven of their last 10 games entering Saturday, and had fallen to the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings after holding the No. 3 position for most of the year. In one of the tightest playoff races in recent memory, the Spurs are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the 10th-place Utah Jazz.

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