Kawhi Leonard has officially spoken.
The San Antonio Spurs All-Star has yet to play this season while dealing with a quad injury. And though the team has been heavy on ambiguous optimism over the course of the year, they haven’t provided a concrete timetable for his return.
That hasn’t changed. Leonard missed the Spurs’ victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, bringing his total absences to 24 and counting. He did, however, address the media for the first time in months before the game, and he sounded—here comes that word again—optimistic that he could rejoin the rotation in the near future.
From ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright:
“I feel good,” Leonard said. “Soon [the time is] to come to be able to play on the floor. I’m feeling pretty healthy right now. I think they told you guys that I’ve been playing five-on-five. So that’s where I’m at right now. It’s been good. Just still, just gotta go through a few more processes of doing that. I should be back soon.”
San Antonio, per Wright, “internally” discussed whether to play Leonard on Monday night against Detroit. So while we’ve been subject to a bunch of smokescreens since the season tipped off, this latest update feels real. He spoke with the media. He admitted to playing five-on-five. This could be the final update before the update that precisely pinpoints his return.
This comes as bad news for the rest of the NBA. The Spurs are 16-8 now, with a second-ranked defense and top-six net rating, according to NBA.com. Leonard is only going to bolster their 18th-place offense while enhancing their stinginess. And he also strengthens their case against the NBA’s more explosive teams. The Spurs have found success running Rudy Gay at the 4 and LaMarcus Aldridge at the 5. Lineups that then include Leonard and Danny Green at the 3 and 2, respectively, with Dejounte Murray running point, will be able to switch a ton.
We might as well cut to the Spurs flirting with 60 victories by season’s end now.