Gregg Popovich: Kawhi Leonard's Quad Injury Unlike Any He's Ever Seen

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2017

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) talks with head coach Gregg Popovich during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Saturday, March 12, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 93-85. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Darren Abate/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has apparently "never, never" seen an injury like Kawhi Leonard's quadriceps setback that has prevented him from lacing it up during the 2017-18 season.

"What's really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse,” Popovich said Wednesday, per Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com. "They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that's pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys."  

Wright explained Leonard hasn't appeared on the floor since he suffered an ankle injury in Game 1 of last season's Western Conference Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors. He noted Leonard is dealing with quadriceps tendinopathy and "hasn't yet advanced far enough to receive clearance to return" in his rehab work.

Parker, who suffered a ruptured quadriceps in the second round of last season's playoffs against the Houston Rockets, seems to be further along in his rehab process considering he is playing with the Spurs' G League affiliate and previously said he would like to come back at some point in November, per Wright.

According to Wright, San Antonio is "reluctant to offer a specific timeline for Leonard's return because there's a level of unpredictability involved with rehabilitation from quadriceps tendinopathy."

The absence of Leonard—a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time member of an All-NBA first team—and Parker, a six-time All-Star—hasn't prevented the Spurs from starting the season with a winning mark at 11-6.

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It is a testament to Popovich's ability to get the best out of all his players that San Antonio is still sitting in the No. 3 spot in the early Western Conference standings, ahead of teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves.

LaMarcus Aldridge has picked up the slack for his missing teammates and is averaging 22.2 points and 8.5 rebounds a night as San Antonio's primary offensive option.

Still, it is difficult to envision the Spurs eventually challenging the likes of the Warriors and Rockets in the Western Conference playoffs without a healthy Leonard and Parker. While the nature of Leonard's injury is a new phenomenon for Popovich, the coach would likely be pleased with the familiar two-way dominance from his superstar when he ultimately returns.