According to a report from Shams Charania at Yahoo Sports, despite earlier reports that the San Antonio Spurs were targeting Thursday’s home game against the New Orleans Pelicans for Kawhi Leonard’s return, he won’t play in that game.
Charania cites sources saying that while Kawhi won’t play on Thursday, he’s still hoping to return this season and help the Spurs try to make the playoffs.
Over the weekend, before the Spurs tipped off against the Golden State Warriors, ESPN’s Lisa Salters reported that San Antonio was hoping to have Kawhi back on Thursday.
But Charania’s report says that Leonard isn’t quite ready to rejoin the team that soon but still wants to play this season.
If the playoffs started today, the Spurs’ record would have them missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1996-1997 season when San Antonio had one of the worst records in the league, which nabbed them the No. 1 pick in the draft, which they used on Tim Duncan.
With 30 losses, the Spurs are currently No. 10 in the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets both have identical records but the Spurs lose on tiebreakers.
The one hope that the Spurs have is that the Western Conference playoff picture is so stacked that with 29 losses (just one fewer than the Spurs, Jazz, and Nuggets), the Oklahoma City Thunder are in the No. 4 spot.
While the Spurs are in their worst stretch since the last time they missed the playoffs, losing 11 of their last 14 games, just one run of victories could secure them a playoff spot. That will be tough, however, as they still face the league’s toughest remaining schedule.
The Spurs still have games against the Pelicans (twice), Timberwolves, Warriors, Wizards (twice), Thunder, Rockets, and Trail Blazers left on their schedule.
Even if Kawhi comes back, it looks like it’ll take a small miracle for the Spurs to get into the playoffs.