But Leonard missed Sunday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers with what was reported to be a left shoulder strain, and he's now in line to miss some time with a partial tear in his shoulder.
Leonard sat out the first 27 games of the season with a quadriceps injury that appeared to linger much longer than most expected.
However, Popovich has managed to guide San Antonio to 27-13, good for third place in the West, heading into Sunday's contest. "It depends on how his shoulder goes". "It's too bad because he was starting to get back into form a little bit after playing a couple of games", he added.
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Lost in how poorly the Panthers offense played at Atlanta was the absence of Jonathan Stewart, who sat out with back tightness. The Panthers' lone lead in the two regular season games came courtesy of a field goal at the start of the Week 3 matchup.
In an effort to ease him back slowly, the franchise has held him out of five games since his return in what they call "return from injury management" where he doesn't play in back-to-backs. The two-time National Basketball Association defensive player of the year was known to have a shoulder injury but not necessarily one of that potential severity.
Leonard had 21 points and three rebounds in 29 minutes against Phoenix. He also showed signs of getting back to his best defensively as he notched four steals and three blocks.
"The first priority right now is making sure everyone is healthy and make sure that we are healthy at the crucial part of the season, going into the playoffs", guard Patty Mills said.
The Spurs don't consider the shoulder injury serious, and he is expected to be reevaluated again on a road trip that will take them through Sacramento on Monday and Los Angeles on Thursday.