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Manu Ginobili says Kawhi Leonard ‘is not coming back’

Manu Ginobili made a provocative statement on Wednesday concerning about the anticipated return of teammate Kawhi Leonard will return: It’s not going to happen.

Ginobili’s startling observation should come with a qualifier, however. It’s not that the San Antonio Spurs legend is ruling out Leonard’s return, which has been a matter of debate for months. Instead, Ginobili believes the Spurs holding out hope for Leonard’s ultimate return does a disservice to the team and its quest for a spot in the postseason.

“He is not coming back,” Ginobili said, via ESPN. “For me, he’s not coming back because it’s not helping [to think Leonard is returning]. We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys made us fall for it. But we have to think that he’s not coming back; that we are who we are, and that we got to fight without him. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he is ready for the jungle.”

Ginobili made his rather caustic comments after Leonard made an appearance at Spurs facilities to take part in the annual team photo. Leonard, however, was gone minutes later when the Spurs began shootaround ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards at AT&T Center.

Reports have long speculated on when Leonard would return from quadriceps tendinopathy that has limited the star to only nine games this season. The most recent report suggested “mid-March” as a potential return. But Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich declined to put a timetable over the weekend concerning when he expects Leonard back in the lineup.

As it stands, the Spurs (41-30) are winners of four straight and occupy the sixth seed in the ultra-competitive and incredibly tight Western Conference standings. Popovich earlier this week reflected upon the “frustrating season” the Spurs have had to navigate, mostly due to Leonard’s prolonged absence.

That said, the Spurs are in prime position to punch a ticket to the postseason for the 21st consecutive year, in spite of Leonard’s frustrating and excessively prolonged unavailability.