Injured Spurs All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard told reporters Wednesday that he could return to the lineup "soon," although he didn't give a target date.
Leonard, 26, has been limited to nine games this season by a lingering quad injury.
“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.”
Contrary to reports, Leonard and his representatives have had no conflict with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Spurs management regarding his treatment and rehabilitation, Leonard said.
ESPN reported last month that Leonard went to New York during the All-Star break to seek a second opinion, fueling speculation that there was friction between Leonard and the Spurs over the handling of his injury.
“Everything was done as a group,” Leonard said. “I don’t feel like nothing was friction. I talked to Pop every day. He knew 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."
Leonard replied quickly when he was asked if he would like to end his career as a Spur.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said.
Leonard, who did not practice with the team Wednesday, said he is not going on a three-game road trip that starts Thursday against defending league champion Golden State.
Asked when he thinks he’ll play again, Leonard said: “Soon. I don’t have a set date right now, but I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing. The progression that I’ve been making has been great, so I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing.”
While Leonard said the pain caused by the tendinopathy in his right quadriceps is diminishing, he quickly added that “it’s hard to explain” the level of his discomfort.
“I’m definitely better,” he said. “I feel better.”
Leonard said “sure” when asked if his goal is to get back on the court as soon as possible.
“With taking the right steps,” he said. “Don’t want to take no steps back and aggravate things.”
Leonard hasn’t played since Jan. 13, when he finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals in 28 minutes against Denver at the AT&T Center.
Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season before making his debut Dec. 12 at Dallas. He played in nine of the next 17 games before the Spurs shut him down again on Jan. 17. Leonard has missed 20 consecutive games since then.
Asked what he's been doing to stay in shape, Leonard said: "Just play. That's it. That's all I can do. Get on the bike a little. Like I said, playing is what gets you in shape for this game. Obviously, we try to do the best we can at simulating a game, but that's all I can do until I get back out on that floor and start getting real game minutes in segments and go from there."
Leonard hasn't practiced since he appeared in his last game, but has played pick-up ball with "guys"(not his teammates) at the Spurs' practice facility.
"It doesn't even matter if I'm playing three-on-three or five-on-five," Leonard said. "If I'm playing three-on-three, it doesn't mean that I'm, whatever, two or three weeks away from playing. I've been playing three-on-three, just different ways to simulate a game."
The Spurs (37-27) held down third place in the Western Conference standings for most of the season, but are now fifth after losing eight of their last 11 games. They edged Memphis 100-98 on Monday to break out of a four-game losing skid at home.
“It’s been tough 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 back, but I can’t come back unhealthy.”
The Silver and Black lead sixth-place Minnesota (38-28) by percentage points with 18 games left on their schedule, and No. 7 Oklahoma City (37-29) and No. 8 Denver (35-29) by one and two games, respectively.
Houston (50-13) and Golden State (50-14) are way ahead of the pack in the West, but the next eight teams are separated by only 4.5 games.
The Spurs play at Oklahoma City on Saturday and at Houston on Monday. San Antonio plays 15 of its last 18 games against opponents with winning records.