SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich disputed Tony Parker's assertion that star forward Kawhi Leonard would return to action "in a couple weeks, three weeks," but Popovich said that Leonard is making significant strides in his recovery from quadriceps tendinopathy.
"He's getting very close and making progress," Popovich said. "He's having contact now, and hopefully, we'll get him back shortly."
As Parker prepared to make his return to the starting lineup Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks, he said he had worked out with Leonard during his own rehabilitation process from a torn quadriceps tendon alongside future Basketball Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and former Spurs veteran Matt Bonner.
Parker said that Leonard was "close" to returning to normal.
"He looked great," Parker said. "I was like, 'Oh, he's good. I forgot that he was that good.' Yeah, [he's] close. It's still going to be a process. Still, the Spurs aren't going to take [any] risks. It's still going to be, like I said, a couple of weeks, three weeks. They're not going to take any risks. But he's looking good so far. What he did with me, he's looking good."
Popovich said Parker's assessment should be taken under caution. Told about Parker's remarks, Popovich asked, "Is that Dr. Parker?"
"I'm probably not going to consult Tony on when Kawhi is going to come back," Popovich said. "It's just me. Maybe I'm being shortsighted, but I'm probably not gonna go there."
Leonard has missed the team's first 19 games this season, after the Spurs initially announced during training camp that he would miss the preseason because of quadriceps tendinopathy. Popovich has said that Leonard hasn't responded to rehabilitation the way the team had hoped.
A two-time NBA All-Star and the team's top defender, Leonard took on added responsibilities last season on offense, averaging career highs in points (25.5) and assists (3.5), in addition to averaging 1.8 steals. Leonard hasn't suited for a game for the Spurs since Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, a series he missed due to a sprained ankle.