SPURS GAMEDAY: Team focused on playing stretch run without Kawhi

Silver and Black resume Rodeo Road Trip in Denver on Friday night.


Spurs (35-24) vs. Denver Nuggets (32-26)

When, where: Friday, 8 p.m., Denver

Season series: Spurs lead 2-1

Last meeting: Nuggets 117, Spurs 109, Feb. 13, Denver

Spurs’ last game: Lost to Nuggets 117-109, Feb. 13, Denver

Nuggets’ last game: Beat Spurs 117-109, Feb. 13, Denver

Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 4-6, lost three

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Nuggets’ last 10 games, streak: 7-3, won three

Spurs’ injury report: Kawhi Leonard (rehabbing quad injury) is out .

Notable: The Spurs have had their roster available for only one game this season. San Antonio has missed a total of 166 games because of injury and has used 19 different starting lineups.


While acknowledging the obvious, that they're a better team with All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs haven't exactly been wringing their hands and wasted time trying to elicit sympathy since coach Gregg Popovich said Wednesday he would be "surprised" if Leonard played again this season.

True to their team-first mantra, the Silver and Black have closed ranks and made clear what their mindset is as they prepare for the likelihood that their best player remains sidelined indefinitely.

Leonard has struggled to overcome a quad injury since the preseason, playing in only nine of the Spurs' 59 games since the team tipped off its regular season Oct. 18. He hasn't appeared in a game since Jan. 13.

Guard Danny Green pretty much nailed the Spurs' mindset Thursday when he was asked how he and his teammates reacted to Popovich's comments regarding the chances of Leonard returning this season.

“I think we’re just expecting the worst and hoping for the best,” Green said. “We have to prepare for it, prepare for the worst . . . as if he’s not going to come back. We’re hoping that he will, hoping that he gets healthy.

"Very possible, likely, that he could come back, but we have to prepare for the worst. Eventually, we have to move forward with preparing that he won’t be here."

The Spurs (35-24) resume their Rodeo Road Trip against the Nuggets (32-26) in Denver on Friday night. San Antonio lost in Denver 117-109 in their last game before the All-Star break 10 days ago. The loss was the third in a row for the Silver and Black, who are 1-5 in February and 1-3 since opening their 16th Rodeo Road Trip with a 48-point rout of Phoenix on Feb. 7.

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As the Spurs press on, only Leonard knows if he'll try to come back again this season. He missed the first 27 games of the season before making his debut Dec. 12. Leonard played for only a month before the pain caused by the tendinopathy in his right quadriceps flared up, prompting the Spurs to shut him down again.

Leonard reportedly has been cleared to play by the Spurs' medical staff, but whether he returns will be his call. Veteran guard Manu Ginobili defended Leonard's decision to stay out.

“Nobody is in his body,” Ginobili said. “He feels the way he feels, and we don't know. Yeah, we know he’s been cleared. But, again, if he’s feeling pain, isn’t sure, he’s not ready to come back, then he’s not.”

The Spurs end the rodeo trip Sunday in Cleveland and play their first home game in nearly a month Wednesday night against New Orleans.

While Leonard remains sidelined, the Silver and Black will have everybody else on their roster available, including veteran reserve forward Rudy Gay, who has missed the team's last 23 games with a heel injury. Gay is expected to split time with Kyle Anderson, who has started in Leonard's spot for most of the season.

Gay averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 34 games before being injured in a home game against the New York Knicks on Dec. 28.

Green said Gay's return gives the Spurs a long, athletic scorer, defender and rebounder off the bench.

"He’s a vet with experience who can help us when we’re running out of gas," Green said. "He can give us a little boost off the bench with his scoring, energy and give some other guys a rest as well. Rudy is a very good player, but right now he’s still getting back into rhythm, getting back into shape."

San Antonio also will be bolstered Friday night by the return of All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed the team's last two games before the All-Star break with a sore knee.

Up next for the Spurs after Friday's game: at Cleveland, Sunday, 2:30 p.m.

Next Spurs home game: vs. New Orleans, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

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