San Antonio star Kawhi Leonard plans to resume working with the team at the Spurs' practice facility this week -- with hopes of returning by late March, league sources told ESPN.
Leonard has returned to San Antonio from New York, where he spent three weeks seeking further consultation on a right quad injury that has sidelined him for most of the season, league sources said.
Leonard isn't expected to immediately start engaging in full 5-on-5 practices with his teammates, but the goal is to advance toward that level of engagement in the near future, league sources said.
In New York, Leonard had been working out at the National Basketball Players Association headquarters gymnasium, sources said.
Leonard decided to step away from playing following a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended on Jan. 13. His return to the lineup continues to be based on his comfort level with managing the injury.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters last week that he'd be "surprised" if Leonard returns this season. Spurs officials are clearly starting to prepare Leonard's teammates for the possibility that they'll have to enter the playoffs without him. San Antonio is 36-25 and currently in third place in the Western Conference playoff chase.
The injury, rehabilitation and timetable for a return has played a part in complicating the Spurs' and Leonard's relationship, causing a fraying of what had long seemed to be a model partnership, league sources told ESPN. The uncertainty surrounding this season -- and Leonard's future, which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 -- has created significant concern at the highest levels of the organization, league sources said.
"We only have X number of games left in the season, and he's still not ready to go," Popovich told reporters in San Antonio last week. "If by some chance he is, it's gonna be pretty late into the season and it's going to be a pretty tough decision -- how late to bring somebody back. So that's why I'm just trying to be honest and logical. I'll be surprised if he gets back this year."
Leonard has developed into one of the NBA's most dominant players and had been expected to be an MVP front-runner this season. He's a two-time first-team All-NBA selection and defensive player of the year, and was named NBA Finals MVP in the 2014 championship series against Miami.