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Spurs' Kawhi Leonard will not return Thursday against Pelicans

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San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard will not play Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

ESPN's Lisa Salters reported on Saturday that Leonard and the Spurs were targeting Thursday's home game for his return if he continued to progress in his recovery from a quadriceps injury that has caused him to miss all but nine games this season.

A source told ESPN that Leonard's target date has always been "mid-March," suggesting that his return to the court will more likely be next week, as the Spurs have home games Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would not put a timetable on Leonard's return, saying on Monday that he would speak with Leonard on Tuesday to evaluate the situation. Leonard and Popovich touched base again Tuesday; the two have remained in daily contact, with the forward inching closer to a possible return.

Popovich revealed Tuesday that the next step rests with Leonard's doctors.

"He's got to be cleared by his medical staff that he's seeing. And until he gets cleared, we can't make a decision on when he's coming back," Popovich said. "So once he gets cleared, then he and I can sit down and talk and see what we think about an appropriate time to come back. But that clearance has to be obtained first."

Popovich, who explained that the team will continue to err on the side of caution when it comes to Leonard's injury, said he has seen the forward work out but that Leonard "needs a little bit more work."

Leonard stepped away from playing to focus on rehabbing the injured quad after a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended on Jan. 13.

Leonard, who received first-team All-NBA honors the previous two seasons, resumed working out in San Antonio on Feb. 27. And he is feeling "much better," according to the source. There remains optimism that he will return this season, the source said.

The Spurs (38-30) have lost 10 of their past 14 and are currently ninth in the Western Conference standings with 14 games remaining. They haven't missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 season.

Information from ESPN's Michael C. Wright was used in this report.