San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili is carrying on as if the team will be without Kawhi Leonard for the remainder of the season as he continues to recover from quadriceps tendinopathy.
Ginobili commented on Leonard before Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards, per ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright:
“He is not coming back. For me, he’s not coming back because it’s not helping [to think Leonard is returning]. We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys made us fall for it. But we have to think that he’s not coming back; that we are who we are, and that we got to fight without him. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he is ready for the jungle.”
Ginobili’s wariness is understandable.
Fans got excited when ESPN’s Lisa Salters and Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Spurs were optimistic Leonard would return against the New Orleans Pelicans on March 15. Leonard was instead absent during San Antonio’s 98-93 victory.
Wright and Wojnarowski reported in February that Leonard was back with the Spurs with the goal of returning to the court by late March. With only five more games this month and 11 remaining for the season, though, the two-time All-Star appears no closer to playing again.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Monday the team has not set a deadline for a potential return. In February, however, Popovich acknowledged Leonard was working against a ticking clock, per the San Antonio Express-News‘ Jabari Young:
The Spurs could use a healthy Leonard right now. They’re in sixth place in the Western Conference, with just 0.5 games separating them from the seventh-place Minnesota Timberwolves, which would set up a first-round matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers if the season ended today.
At the same time, San Antonio can’t assume Leonard is going to arrive and solve all of the team’s problems. The Spurs are better off hoping for the best and expecting the worst.