Less than a month after returning from a right quadriceps injury that cost him the first seven weeks of the season, San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard missed Sunday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers with a “partial tear” in his left shoulder that could result in more missed time moving forward.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters after Sunday’s 111-110 loss to the Blazers that Leonard suffered the shoulder injury in a win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday, when he scored 21 points in 29 minutes, but “I don’t think it will be a while” before he returns, per ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.
“I don’t know,” Popovich added. “It depends on how his shoulder goes. It’s too bad because he was starting to get back into form a little bit after playing a couple of games.”
The Spurs don’t consider the shoulder injury serious, and he is expected to be reevaluated again on a road trip that will take them through Sacramento on Monday and Los Angeles on Thursday. Popovich did not rule Leonard out for either game on Sunday, although Spurs guard Manu Ginobili told the media that, “We lose him for a few games, and we don’t for how many, so it’s been a tough season.”
The Spurs were also originally optimistic about the right quad tendinopathy that lingered for Leonard from last season into training camp. That injury ultimately cost him the first 27 games of the season.
He’s played only eight games this season, resting for a game between each of his past seven appearances. His minutes load had increased from less than 20 in his first four appearances to nearly 30 in his last four, and his performance was just starting to resemble the player who has twice been named Defensive Player of the Year and entered the MVP conversation each of the past three years.
The Spurs have managed well without Leonard this season, ranking third in the Western Conference, and they are just 4-4 with him in the lineup thus far, but San Antonio desperately needs him at full strength to represent a real challenge to the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets in the playoffs.
The injuries are mounting for one of the game’s great players, and while news that the injury occurred to his non-shooting shoulder is encouraging in that he may be able to play through the discomfort, the partial tear is no less frustrating for a team that looked to be a real challenger to the Warriors before an ankle injury sidelined Leonard for the final three-plus games of the 2017 conference finals.
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