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Gregg Popovich Says He'll Be Surprised if Kawhi Leonard Returns This Season

Popovich said he would be surprised if Kawhi Leonard plays again this season. The two-time All-Star has not played since Jan. 13. 

Bad news, Spurs fans: coach Gregg Popovich said he'll be surprised if Kawhi Leonard plays again this season. 

"You know, with Kawhi, I'll be surprised if he returns this season," Popovich said at Spurs practice on Wednesday. Asked to clarify why he feels that way, 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 gonna be pretty late in the season and it's going to be a pretty tough decision, you know, how late you bring somebody back. So that's why I'm just trying to be honest and logical. I'll be surprised if he gets back this year."

Popovich did not say that the team was prepared to officially rule Leonard out for the year. 

Leonard has not played since Jan. 13 as he's dealt with a quad injury that's persisted all season. The two-time All-Star has played in just nine games this season, averaging 16.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He did not make his season debut until Dec. 12 and he did not play in more than two consecutive games.

Adrian Wojnarowski of reports that Leonard has been medically cleared to return and that it is up to Leonard to determine when he will be back. Wojnarowski adds that Leonard sought a second opinion on his injury in New York with Spurs personnel accompanying him.

San Antonio announced on Jan. 17 that Leonard was out "indefinitely," and the team has not provided a timetable for his return since then. The Spurs have 23 games left in the season and have their last regular-season game on April 11. 

Despite Leonard's prolonged absence, the Spurs have managed to stay afloat in the competitive Western Conference. San Antonio is 35-24 and sits third in the West, trailing just the Rockets and Warriors. San Antonio returns to the floor after the All-Star break in Denver on Friday night. 

The 2014 Finals MVP was named First-Team All-NBA in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He finished third in MVP voting last season, behind only Russell Westbrook and James Harden, by averaging 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He is a two-time winner (2015 and 2016) of the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award.