With a little over a minute to go in the third quarter, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, flanked by several members of his team’s training staff, went back into to the locker room.
In that moment, there were legitimate concerns that San Antonio’s best player might have aggravated the quad injury that has caused him to miss the first 27 games of the regular season. As it turns out, Leonard was only heading to the locker room early to get treatment and because he had hit head coach Greg Popovich’s ever-changing minutes limit for players returning from injury.
And even though the Spurs were dealt a surprising 95-89 defeat to the Mavericks in Dallas on Tuesday night, Popovich was still pleased with Leonard’s 13 points, 6 rebounds, as well as an assist and a steal in 16 minutes of action.
“I thought he was wonderful,” Popovich said. “He’s trying to get some rust off and that kind of thing. Obviously, he’s confident. He’s a heck of a player, and it was really frustrating for him to just start getting loose and have to come off the court.”
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Leonard looked a tad hesitant in his first 6 minutes of play, but once he got on the scoring sheet, he found an early rhythm, hitting his first three field goals attempts. His six points were the most of any Spurs player in the first quarter.
He did have some frustrating moments too. Defensively, Leonard missed a few defensive slides that cost his team 3-point baskets on the perimeter. And while he did hit half of his field goal attempts from the floor (six of 12), Leonard was only able to connect on one of his four three-point tries.
After the game, players such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green weren’t very concerned about their teammates’ ability to find his rhythm. For the most part, Leonard wasn’t all that worried either.
“I missed everything on the court and I’m glad I was able to play,” Leonard said. “...I felt good tonight playing 16 minutes, so we’ll see what happens down the road.”
Peter Dawson: 817-390-7657