MORE The San Antonio Spurs are off to a rough start this season — and it hasn't even started yet.
Kawhi Leonard, the two-time All-Star small forward and two-time Defensive Player of the Year who finished third in MVP voting last season, will miss the entire preseason with a right quadriceps injury. Per a team announcement, the 26-year-old Leonard "continues a rehabilitation program for right quadriceps tendinopathy" and a timeline for his return will be determined "at a later date." The Spurs open their preseason in Sacramento on Monday, with four games to follow before their Oct. 18 regular season opener (at home vs. Minnesota).
At a time when so many other Western Conference contenders are ramping up for a run at the defending champion Golden State Warriors, this is the last thing Gregg Popovich & Co. wanted to be announcing as October arrives. Even with all the roster improvements around them — the Oklahoma City Thunder adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony while re-signing Russell Westbrook for the long term; the Houston Rockets pairing James Harden with Chris Paul; the Minnesota Timberwolves putting Jimmy Butler alongside Karl-Anthony Towns — the Spurs were the only team that had truly pushed the Warriors last season.
They were up 25 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, when Leonard went down with an ankle injury after landing on Zaza Pachulia's foot and everything changed. The Warriors took the opener in a wild comeback, then swept the series with Leonard sidelined. The same was true then as it is now: So long as Leonard is out, the Spurs simply aren't the same.
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Flip through the gallery to see Kawhi Leonard through the years. Mark J. Rebilas, US Presswire Fullscreen 2009: Kawhi Leonard brings the ball up the court during a game against the UNLV Rebels. Ethan Miller, Getty Images Fullscreen 2010: Kawhi Leonard drives to the hoop on St. Mary's Gaels guard Matthew Dellavedova. Robert Hanashiro, USAT Fullscreen 2011: Kawhi Leonard drives to the basket against Air Force guard Michael Lyons. Ed Andrieski, AP Fullscreen 2011: Kawhi Leonard scores against Temple. Chris Carlson, AP Fullscreen 2011: Commissioner David Stern poses with the No. 15 pick, Kawhi Leonard. Mel Evans, AP Fullscreen 2012: Tim Duncan discusses with Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Richard Rowe, US Presswire Fullscreen 2013: Gregg Popovich talks with Kawhi Leonard during Game 2 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2013: LeBron James backs down Kawhi Leonard during the NBA Finals. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2013: Kawhi Leonard talks with the media the day before Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2014: San Antonio Spurs players Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Kawhi Leonard look on after a timeout during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2014: Kawhi Leonard drives to the basket while guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2014: LeBron James drives against Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals. Brendan Maloney, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2014: Kawhi Leonard gets his NBA championship ring from San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2015: Kawhi Leonard presents President Barack Obama with a ball signed by the Spurs. Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2015: Kawhi Leonard reacts after a shot during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2016: Kawhi Leonard is interviewed by Craig Sager following a win against the New Orleans Pelicans. Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2016: Kawhi Leonard defends Russell Westbrook. Ronald Cortes, Getty Images Fullscreen 2016: Kawhi Leonard celebrates after making a three-point basket during a game against the Miami Heat. Darren Abate, AP Fullscreen 2016: Kawhi Leonard holds his Defensive Player of the Year trophy. Eric Gay, AP Fullscreen 2016: Kawhi Leonard smiles before Game 1 of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2016: Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins talk after the Spurs beat the Kings 102-94. Rich Pedroncelli, AP Fullscreen 2017: Kawhi Leonard drives to the basket against DeMar DeRozan in the NBA All-Star Game. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2017: Kawhi Leonard is defended by James Harden. Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen 2017: Kawhi Leonard warms up before Game 4 of the second round of the playoffs. Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports Fullscreen Like this topic? You may also like these photo galleries: Replay 1 of 25 2 of 25 3 of 25 4 of 25 5 of 25 6 of 25 7 of 25 8 of 25 9 of 25 10 of 25 11 of 25 12 of 25 13 of 25 14 of 25 15 of 25 16 of 25 17 of 25 18 of 25 19 of 25 20 of 25 21 of 25 22 of 25 23 of 25 24 of 25 25 of 25 Autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last Slide Next Slide