The last time San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard was on the court was last season against the Warriors in the 2017 West Finals. After injuring his ankle in Game 1 his season was over but his return to the floor was just beginning.
As if dealing with an ankle injury wasn't enough, he then developed a thigh injury over the offseason which has kept him off the court and leaving the Spurs perplexed.
But the light at the end of the tunnel is nearing and Kawhi's return is impending which means adjustments are also on the way.
Without their franchise player, the Spurs have managed a 15-7 record, currently third in the West, have one of the NBA's best defense and have put together multiple winning streaks this season. The team is forging ahead, developing chemistry and are finding their groove without Leonard but incorporating him will take adjustments.
“There’s going to be an adjustment for sure. He’s a heck of a player so we look forward to having him back and go through that process of him coming back to the team and the adjustment. The quicker the better." said Pau Gasol.
With Kawhi sidelined, it has allowed players to get more minutes on the court and bloom.
Kyle Anderson is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks starting in place of Kawhi, Rudy Gay has received more minutes at the small-forward spot and the offense and defense runs through LaMarcus Aldridge and he's having a career-season as a Spur.
Things will change on the court when Kawhi returns. Anderson will likely go back to the bench, there will be less touches for Aldridge and the team will have to readjust their offense and defensive schemes.
Said Head Coach Gregg Popovich, “There’ll be adjustments for the whole team. When your leading scorer comes back everybody adjusts, it’s not just one guy.”
The Spurs have not set a definitive timetable on Leonard's return but all signs point that it is fast approaching.
And having back their star player, coupled with a team finding success without him can only bolster the Spurs' place in the NBA and be a welcome sight to see for the team despite initial changes.
"Hopefully, it will be easy, smooth and organic and he won’t have any setbacks because he’s been working hard to be in the best possible shape to come back," said Gasol. "We look forward to having him back at some point.”