The San Antonio Spurs plan to bring Kawhi Leonard back for Friday night's game against Portland after the reigning NBA Finals MVP missed 17 of the Spurs' last 19 games because of a serious hand injury, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that Leonard has been cleared to return to the lineup against the Blazers after missing San Antonio's last 15 games thanks to a torn ligament in his shooting hand.
The Spurs have officially listed Leonard as probable, but sources say that the club has pinpointed this game for the 23-year-old's return.
After San Antonio's morning shootaround, Leonard told reporters that the final call belongs to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich after Leonard completes pregame warmups.
"It's up to Pop," Leonard said. "It feels good, back to almost 100 percent. That's what we've been waiting for, to relieve some of that pain and get the ligament scar tissue healed up. That's been about a week now, so I think I'm ready to go."
The defending champions are a mere 7-8 over the last 15 games without their best perimeter defender, who is believed to have suffered the injury after a fall in Utah on Dec. 9. Popovich said recently that "one of the [San Antonio] doctors said he's been doing hands for 40 years and it's the first time he's ever seen this injury."