Tha Sports Junkies 101

Kawhi Leonard Returns to the Spurs Lineup

Kawhi Leonard returns to the Spurs lineup Katie Haugland Bowen / Flickr


Kawhi Leonard returns to the Spurs lineup – Rapid Reaction


After missing all of the preseason and the first 27 games of the regular season with a quad injury, forward Kawhi Leonard made his long-anticipated season debut last night. In only 16 minutes, Leonard finished with 13 points on 50% shooting, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block. With their star back in the lineup, does this make the Spurs a top 3 team in the league? Knowing the consistency of head coach Gregg Popovich, there’s a good chance that may become a reality.

Before Leonard’s Return

The Spurs were a very respectable 19-8 before Leonard’s return. That’s impressive considering they had a top 5 player in the league missing from the lineup. What’s even more impressive is that for the first 20 games of the year, their long-time point guard, Tony Parker, was out due a torn quad he suffered during the playoffs last season. They relied heavily on the play of center LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging nearly 23 points and 8 rebounds per game. The Spurs have also had an effective system of feeding Aldridge in the post for high percentage shots. Coupled with a top three defensive rating to this point, according to, the Spurs, once again, are proving to be a legitimate title contender.

Leonard’s Return

The Spurs took the conservative approach in Leonard’s return against the Dallas Mavericks as they only played him for 16 minutes. After the game, he admitted that he was shaking off a little rust. Despite his presence on the court, the Spurs continued their commitment to Aldridge in the post as he finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Leonard was able to show glimpses of what fans have seen throughout last year. He was confident in his jumper and made elusive moves in the paint.

Although he was eventually pulled in the 3rd quarter, coach Popovich was pleased with what he saw. Per ESPN: “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.” It will be interesting to see how the Spurs use Leonard over the next few games as they try to integrate him back into their normal operation.

What the Future Holds

As that Kawhi Leonard returns to the Spurs lineup, where do they go from here? Leonard has yet to practice with the entire team for a full workout, so that would be a good start. As he gets more minutes, looks for the Spurs to find a balance between Leonard and Aldridge. With Parker facilitating the offensive attack, only time will tell if they can regain the same momentum they had last season, winning 61 games. Now that this veteran roster is back to full strength, Popovich’s leadership and discipline should be enough to propel the Spurs back into the elite ranks in the Western Conference.