SAN ANTONIO – The Kawhi Leonard injury saga does not appear to ending any time soon.
Hours after Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told the media on Wednesday he would be surprised if Leonard returned this season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Leonard has been medically cleared to play, but for the moment has elected to sit out.
According to the report, Leonard spent about 10 days in New York before the All-Star break consulting with a specialist to get a second opinion on his quadriceps injury, which has forced him to miss 50 games this season.
Wojnarowski reported on Thursday morning that Spurs staff was with Leonard as he worked out at the NBA players association headquarters.
Leonard reportedly got medical clearance, but was not seen at the Spurs' first practice after the break on Wednesday. Wojnarowski made it clear on Thursday the decision to return will be Leonard's call.
"He’s been cleared medically by the Spurs' doctor and outside doctors, and it’s on him, his own threshold of pain or discomfort, about when he will return,” Wojnarowski said.
Popovich did not completely close the door on Leonard’s return this season, but admitted it will be a difficult decision with only 23 games left in the regular season.
“We only have X number of games left in the season, and he's still not ready to go, and (if) by some chance he is, it will be pretty late in the season and it's going to be a tough decision," Popovich said. “Wishing and hoping doesn’t do anybody any good. We’ve got to do what we can to be the best team possible as the season winds down.”
#Spurs news: More Popovich today on Kawhi Leonard possibly not returning this season and team's approach moving forward: "We've got to do what we can, to be the best team possible as the season winds down.” (video via @markmendez) #KSATsports #KSATnews #Spurs #NBA pic.twitter.com/yBoIlxZ2BF— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) February 22, 2018
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When asked if the Spurs were ready to announce Leonard is done for the season, Popovich responded, “I’m ready to say what I just said.”
This latest report adds another layer of drama to Leonard’s injury situation.
The Spurs All-NBA forward has played in only nine game this season, and there have been multiple reports of Leonard having a “distant” relationship with the organization.
WATCH: Tony Parker talks Kawhi Leonard breaking news today...Rudy Gay says 'we support Kawhi, but we can't sit around waiting, we have a job to do' (via @markmendez) #KSATsports #KSATnews #Spurs #NBA pic.twitter.com/NgfIvG4FtI— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) February 22, 2018
Popovich has said there is no merit to the rumors, but the situation has been frustrating for both Leonard and the team.
The Spurs are currently in third place in the Western Conference standings, but their chances to make another long playoff run decline with Leonard out of the lineup.