Report: Kawhi Leonard hopes to return to Spurs lineup in March

    San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) celebrates sinking a basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks onTuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

    SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard plans to work with the team at the Spurs' practice facility this week, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael Wright.

    Leonard hopes to return to the Spurs lineup "sometime in March" according to ESPN. The report said the goal is for Leonard to advance to full five-on-five practices with his teammates.

    After spending three weeks in New York rehabbing his injury, and receiving a second opinion, Leonard is returning to San Antonio to slowly acclimate himself within the Spurs system. Without him for much of the season, San Antonio is the third-seed in the Western Conference with a 36-25 record.

    The Spurs won five of nine games with Leonard on the floor this season. In the limited sample size, San Antonio scored 100.9 points per 100 possessions -- an offensive efficiency that would place the team last in the league over an entire season.

    Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said last week he'd be "surprised" if the two-time All-Star returned to the lineup before the season ended. Leonard has missed 52 of a possible 61 games this season and the uncertainty around his injury made his future in San Antonio appear murky.

    ESPN's report said Leonard's lengthy absence caused a "fraying of what had long seemed to be a model partnership." Leonard is qualified for the "super max" extension worth more than $200 million this offseason.

    If the two sides don't agree on an extension, the 26-year-old is under contract for at least one more year before a player option gives him the freedom to explore the free agent market in 2019.

    Just last season Leonard finished third in Most Valuable Player voting, behind Okahoma City's Russell Westbrook and Houston's James Harden. He averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 3-pointers and 2.0 steals last season, while shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range.

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