Despite reported tension between himself and the team earlier in the year, Kawhi Leonard reiterated Wednesday he wants to remain with the San Antonio Spurs.
Leonard told reporters he wants to stay with the team for the rest of his NBA career, per ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright. The two-time All-Star is eligible for free agency after the 2018-19 season.
Leonard also addressed his recovery from right quadriceps tendinopathy, which has kept him out for most of the 2017-18 campaign.
“Soon. I don’t have a set date right now,” Leonard said, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “I just have to keep doing what I’m doing. The progression that I am making has been great. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Wright and colleague Adrian Wojnarowski reported in January there had been friction between Leonard and the Spurs regarding his rehabilitation, to the point Leonard was “distant” and “disconnected” from the team.
Spurs general manager RC Buford disputed that characterization of the situation but acknowledged Leonard’s prolonged recovery had been “difficult for everyone.”
Leonard also said Tuesday that he and the Spurs have been a unified front in terms of his recovery plan: “Everything was done as a group. I don’t feel like nothing was friction. I talk to [head coach Gregg Popovich] every day. He knows what the progressions were. He knew what I am doing the whole entire time.”
Wright and Wojnarowski reported Feb. 26 that Leonard was looking to practice with the Spurs by the end of the week and targeted late March for his full return to the court.
The fact Leonard believes he can get back soon is encouraging, but the lack of a firm timeline remains concerning. The Spurs only have 18 games left in the regular season.
Even at the conservative end for a “late March” return-San Antonio’s game March 23 against the Utah Jazz-that’d leave Leonard with just 10 games to get ready for the playoffs. Assuming Popovich would gradually reintegrate Leonard into the rotation, he wouldn’t have much time to get back in game shape before the playoffs begin April 14.