San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich announced superstar forward Kawhi Leonard will have a minutes restriction as he makes his season debut Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center.
Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com passed along Popovich's confirmation of Leonard's return.
The 26-year-old small forward missed the Spurs' first 27 games while recovering from quadriceps tendinopathy, the same issue that sidelined San Antonio point guard Tony Parker.
Last month, Popovich said he'd never encountered the ailment before it forced two of his top contributors out of the lineup for an extended period.
"Never, never," he told reporters. "What's really strange is that Tony 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."
Parker returned to action Nov. 27, but he hasn't played more than 20 minutes in any of his six appearances and has sat out two games to rest.
Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 48.5 percent from the field last season en route to finishing third in NBA MVP voting.
The Spurs kept pace with the Western Conference's elite despite his absence. Their 19-8 record ranks third, three games behind the Houston Rockets and 2.5 games behind the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
"Me not being able to play the game was a little frustrating, but my team is doing a great job of holding their own," Leonard told reporters last week. "A lot of people stepped up, and it's going to be great for us in the long run."
Kyle Anderson, Rudy Gay and Bryn Forbes have played more prominent roles for the first couple of months. They should all remain in the rotation, but their minutes will drop as Leonard's increase.