Spurs' Kawhi Leonard 'coming along more slowly' than expected

Popovich: 'Long way to go defensively' (0:55)

Gregg Popovich explains why the Spurs pick up their play in the third quarter and how players are continuing to work on the defensive side of the ball. (0:55)

SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich provided an update Tuesday on Kawhi Leonard, who has missed 10 games due to right quadriceps tendinopathy, saying the two-time All-Star forward is "just coming along more slowly" than expected in rehabilitation.

"It's just been more difficult for him to get through the rehab routine," Popovich said.

Leonard hasn't played for the Spurs since Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, and he missed that series due to an ankle injury. Leonard came into training camp on San Antonio's injured list but hasn't yet been able to practice with the team, which is also missing veteran point guard Tony Parker, who underwent surgery during the offseason to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon.

Parker spent time working on a rehabilitation assignment with the team's G League affiliate and took part in some work Tuesday during San Antonio's morning shootaround in advance of Tuesday's game against the Clippers.

Parker isn't expected to return to the lineup until December, and the club has declined to place a timeframe on Leonard's recovery.

Leonard needs to advance through a rehabilitation process comprised of several steps before he is cleared to return to the court.

"His body hasn't reacted the same way as Tony's," Popovich said of Leonard. "Tony's at the point where he's been going 5-on-5 and that kind of thing. He's not totally confident. It'll be a few more weeks. But he's definitely going the right direction. And so is Kawhi. It's just taking a little bit longer.

"I wouldn't want him to go right from rehab to jumping on the court. He's got to go 3-on-3, 5-on-5, feel comfortable because in the end, that confidence is what's going to ... anybody who's been out for any length of time has to get that back. Even if the doctors say, 'Yep, you're ready to go.' You're really not until you're mentally ready to go."

In the meantime, San Antonio sees some positives coming from the absence of its best player in Leonard and its floor leader in Parker. Patty Mills and second-year man Dejounte Murray continue to split duties at point guard with Parker out, while Kyle Anderson has filled in at Leonard's spot on the wing. That has also led to more playing time for Bryn Forbes and 26-year old rookie Brandon Paul.

"Every time a team has to adjust to play without their main player, others have to step up and gain confidence. They end up being better players," veteran guard Manu Ginobili said. "I think it's a great thing for guys like Bryn [Forbes], Brandon [Paul], even Kyle [Anderson] having to be more responsible offensively, have more possessions, make more decisions. So I think it's going to end up being a great thing for the team in the long term. In the short term, we miss [Leonard]. We need him out there. And when he comes back, we are going to have to readjust. It's going to take a little bit of time, but at this point, it's making those guys step up and play a bigger role."

The Spurs dropped four contests in a row from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2 but have since captured two consecutive victories. Mills admitted that adjusting to playing without go-to scorer Leonard took a toll on the Spurs, but he sees the forward's present absence as a positive for the rest of the squad.

"It's giving other people an opportunity to play. Kyle has come in and been able to find a rhythm and a sense of confidence in himself to be able to contribute. So in that sense, it's good," Mills said. "We never want to be without players. But it's also giving other guys a sense of responsibility to be able to fulfill their roles, and not just guys at Kawhi's position, but everyone around them as well.

"We all know there's times when Kawhi can get the ball and make things happen. But we don't have that opportunity at the moment. So it's on everyone to make sure we do. I thought the last two games, it was a team effort to make sure we put it away in the bag and not have Kawhi there to have to save us. So that was the adjustment that we made from the three or four losses that we had previously, which was pleasing to see. We can do it [without Leonard]. We know we can do it as a team."