Gameday at a glance
Spurs (19-8) vs. Dallas Mavericks (7-20)
When, where: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dallas
Season series: Spurs lead 2-0
Last meeting: Spurs 115, Mavs 108, Nov. 27, AT&T Center
Spurs’ last game: Beat Suns 104-101, Saturday, Phoenix
Mavs’ last game: Lost to Timberwolves 97-92, Sunday, Minneapolis
Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 8-2, won four
Mavs’ last 10 games, streak: 4-6, lost three
Notable: Kawhi Leonard (right quadriceps tendinopathy) and Danny Green (tightness, left groin) are listed as probable for Tuesday night’s game, and Kyle Anderson (left MCL sprain) is out.
Following shootaround in Dallas on Tuesday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told the assembled reporters that Leonard and Green would be in the lineup for the game against the Mavericks.
It’s been so long since Leonard played a game with the Spurs that Popovich has occasionally joked about his absence with the media.
“If I remember right, it seems like it’s forever, he’s first-team All-NBA,” Popovich said before the Silver and Black played Detroit on Dec. 4. “I know there’s a guy around here someplace I’m missing. I keep looking for him.”
Popovich's comments drew a good laugh from reporters.
Earlier, Popovich was asked what he thought about having to answer repeated questions about when Leonard would return to the lineup.
“I understand,” he said. “If I had your job, I’d be asking all the time, too. I wasn’t trying to be a wise guy. That’s why I always say sooner than later he’s going to be back, instead of giving dates and that sort of thing. It’s really much sooner now.”
Popovich won’t be asked that question anymore. The Spurs on Monday listed Leonard, who has been sidelined with tendinopathy in his right quadriceps since the preseason, as probable for Tuesday night’s road game against Dallas.
San Antonio wraps up its four-game regular-season series against Dallas on Saturday at the AT&T Center.
The Silver and Black have played the first 27 games of the season without him, going 19-8 and holding down third place in the Western Conference standings behind Houston (21-4) and Golden State (22-6).
For the record, it’s been seven months since Leonard played with the Spurs. He reinjured his left ankle in Game 1 against Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals on May 14, and was lost for the remainder of the playoffs.
Leonard made two free throws after getting fouled by Zaza Pachulia, who stepped on Leonard’s left foot as he shot a jumper from the corner. In obvious pain, Leonard sank two free throws to give the Silver and Black a 23-point lead before he limped to the bench with 7:55 left in the third quarter.
With Leonard gone, the Warriors rallied for a 113-111 victory and swept the series to advance to the NBA Finals for third consecutive year.
There was nothing to indicate Leonard wouldn’t be ready for the start of training camp when the Spurs had their annual media day on Sept. 25.
The first sign that something wasn’t right came five days later, when Leonard didn’t play in the team’s annual Silver and Black game at the AT&T Center. He didn’t even make an appearance on the court until after the scrimmage, signing autographs and posing for photos with fans.
Meanwhile, Popovich was telling the media in a hallway near the Spurs’ locker room that Leonard probably would miss the entire preseason with the quad injury.
Tendinopathy is a medical term used to describe inflammation and microtears of a tendon. Most tendon injuries are the result of gradual wear and tear to the tendon from overuse or aging, according to WebMD.com, and can cause pain, stiffness and loss of strength in the affected area.
Leonard’s rehabilitation took longer than expected, fueling speculation that the injury was more serious than initially thought. But Leonard started playing five-on-five in recent weeks and told reporters last week that he was close to returning.
The paramount question now is how long it will take Leonard to get back in the flow and mesh with his teammates, particularly LaMarcus Aldridge, who has carried the team and played at an All-Star level on both ends of the court. Aldridge is the team’s leading scorer (22.7) and rebounder (8.1).
"It's going to take some time because whatever they were doing even before I came back, they were doing well, and I had to adjust and make sure I don't disrupt what was going on," point guard Tony Parker said. "Kawhi is going to have to do the same thing.
"It's going to be Pop's (coach Gregg Popovich) decision at the end of the day. Me, as a point guard, (I'll) try to do the best job I can to keep everybody happy and make sure that everybody get their rhythm and playing well."
Leonard will make his season debut two weeks after Parker returned to the lineup following surgery in May to repair the ruptured tendon in his left quadriceps. Parker also made his return against Dallas.
Center Pau Gasol expressed confidence that Leonard won’t take long to mesh with his teammates and vice versa.
“With such great players, it’s a lot easier,” Gasol said. “Hopefully, we see a transition that won’t be too hard. Kawhi is a great player and he’s worked hard. We know how to play the game well and we basically play it with the same principles, regardless of who’s on the floor. But with a player the caliber of Kawhi, things should be a little smoother.”
Up next after Tuesday's game: at Houston, Friday, 8:30 p.m.