SAN ANTONIO — Kawhi Leonard plans on returning “soon” from a leg injury, after missing all but nine games so far this season.
Leonard held an impromptu, four-minute press conference Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time) following Spurs practice. He won’t travel with the team on their upcoming three-game road trip to Golden State, Oklahoma City and Houston.
But the 26-year-old Leonard says his return is imminent.
“Soon. I don’t have a set date right now,” he said. “But I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing. The progress that I’m making has been great.”
He’s been riding a stationary bike and participating in three-on-three drills to simulate the physical contact of games, but has done so with staff members and “not my players.”
The Spurs have struggled without their star forward. Other teammates with various injuries have included Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Danny Green and Kyle Anderson. San Antonio has lost seven of its last 10 games, falling from third to fifth in the Western Conference.
Leonard watched as the Spurs blew a 15-point lead to New Orleans on Feb. 28 and a 17-point lead to the Los Angeles Lakers on March 3. San Antonio never trailed until the final two minutes of each home game.
“It’s been tough [not playing], but these guys have been doing it all season,” Leonard said. “They’ve been playing great. I’m thankful for the teammates that I do have. They understand the situation that I’m in. They’re playing well. I’ve just got to get better, I can’t come back unhealthy.”
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year played in nine games after missing the season’s first 27 games, but returned to the sideline after playing against Denver on Jan. 13.
“It’s hard to explain, but obviously I’m a competitor,” Leonard said. “If I could play, I’m going to go out and play like I did in the nine games, just to test it out. It just wasn’t where we wanted it to be.”
Team officials said Leonard was suffering pain and discomfort in the right quadriceps the morning after playing the Nuggets, leading them to sideline him indefinitely.
“[The discomfort is] diminishing,” Leonard said. “It’s hard to explain, but I am definitely better. Feel better and am feeling more comfortable.”
Leonard denied an ESPN report that he was unhappy with the Spurs’ handling of his injury and was possibly seeking to leave the team once his contract ends next season. When asked if he wanted to remain with the Spurs for his entire career, Leonard said, “Yea, for sure.”
“Everything was done as a group,” Leonard said. “I don’t feel like nothing was friction. I talk to Pop every day. He knows what the progressions were, he knew what I was doing the whole entire time as well as the front office.
“We made a group decision, so it wasn’t me just going out and saying ‘I’m going to go do this.’”