Report: Kawhi Leonard Targeting Return from Quad Injury on Tuesday vs. Mavericks

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2017

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard warms up before Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, May 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard is reportedly targeting a return to the lineup Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright.

Leonard has missed the entire 2017-18 season thus far due to a quad injury.

The two-time Defensive Player of the Year hasn't played a game since he exited Game 1 of last season's Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors with an ankle injury and rejoins a Spurs team that is sitting at 17-8 so far this season.

The nature of his injury and recovery was concerning for San Antonio's title hopes this year. Wright noted the team hesitated to clarify a detailed timeline for the swingman's return in part "because there's a level of unpredictability involved with rehabilitation from quadriceps tendinopathy."  

"Never, never," head coach Gregg Popovich said when asked if he had seen such an injury in the past, per Wright. "What's really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. 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."  

Leonard's return elevates the Spurs onto the short list of NBA title contenders because of his ability to impact the game on both ends.  

He scored a career-high 25.5 points per game last season as someone who can attack off the bounce, shoot over smaller defenders and extend the opposing defense with his three-point shooting (38.8 percent in his career). He also frequently guards the opposition's best player and is a four-time member of an All-Defensive team for his efforts.  

Given his importance, it is a testament to the Spurs' depth and Popovich's coaching they have played well without him and remain in the thick of the playoff picture, as they are currently third in the Western Conference.  

Leonard gives San Antonio a realistic chance to compete with the Warriors and Houston Rockets on a playoff stage as someone who can anchor the offense and guard the likes of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and James Harden on the other end. The Spurs need him healthy for the long run as they pursue their sixth NBA title in the last 20 years.

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