For memorable results, Popovich wants Spurs to forget Kawhi

From ESPN - November 14, 2017

DALLAS -- Standing at a corner of the court inside the American Airlines Center, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich paused a tick to ponder the question Tuesday of how his squad remains competitive in the face of losing MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard.

"I think a team just has to play in a sense like he does not exist," Popovich said. "Nobody cares if you lost a good player, right? Everybody still wants to whip you."

Certainly, the Dallas Mavericks harbored such desires. Yet Popovich walked out of American Airlines Center as the third coach in NBA history, per Elias Sports Bureau, to capture 500 road wins by virtue of San Antonio's 97-91 triumph over the Mavericks.

Popovich joins a distinguished list that includes Pat Riley (520 road wins) and Don Nelson (517).

The Spurs snared three of Popovich's road wins on the season without what the coach calls the team's best scorer and defender (Leonard) or its top pick-and-roll player and leader (Tony Parker).

"It does not do much good to do the 'poor me' thing or keep wondering when he's gonna be back, or what are we gonna do?" Popovich said when asked about Leonard. "It's we have to play now, other people have to pick up those minutes, and we have to figure out who to go to; win in a different way. You just move on as you might suspect."

San Antonio made the announcement that Leonard would miss time with quadriceps tendinopathy on Sept. 30, yet the star forward has not been able to participate in any of the team's games this season. Popovich provided an update on Leonard last week, saying he was "just coming along more slowly" than expected in rehabilitation.

The Spurs wo not allow Leonard to return to action until he completes a step-by-step progression from individual work to 2-on-2 drills, 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 before full clearance for practice. Leonard has participated in some steps of the progression, but has not yet been able to practice with the team. The Spurs refuse to place a timeline on Leonard's recovery due in part to the nature of quadriceps tendinopathy, as every player's body responds differently to treatment.

Leonard has not taken the court for San Antonio since Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, a series he missed with an ankle injury.

Parker, meanwhile, is close to returning to action since recovering from offseason surgery to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon. Parker took on two rehabilitation assignments with the team's G League affiliate and is shooting for a return in late November, although it's more likely Popovich sits him until December.

"We have not even all practiced together yet," forward Rudy Gay told "It's going to be fun to see what it will look like when we are all together."

In the meantime, the Spurs continue to conduct business as if Leonard does not exist, as Popovich mentioned. San Antonio replaced Leonard in the starting lineup with fourth-year pro Kyle Anderson, who entered Tuesday averaging career highs in points (8.3), rebounds (6.5), assists (2.5) and blocks (.92), having started all 14 games this season.


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