The San Antonio Spurs are expected to challenge the Golden State Warriors this season, with Kawhi Leonard leading the way. However, the Spurs played just nine games with Leonard before he was sidelined indefinitely due to a quad injury. In nine games, Leonard averaged 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game before the Spurs decided to shut him down for an indefinite period to help him rehabilitate completely from the quad injury.

When asked by Michael C. Wright about Leonard’s status, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich delivered bad news for fans, saying he would be “surprised” if his superstar returns this season.

With Leonard out, the Spurs’ chances of winning another NBA title have taken a huge hit. While the Spurs are third in the Western Conference with a 35-24 mark, they are facing tough competition from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets. After their impressive 129-81 win over the Phoenix Suns, the Spurs are currently on a three-game losing streak on their Rodeo Road Trip.

Spurs are known for careful handling of injuries

Popovich and the Spurs are known for their careful handling of players’ injuries. Last season, Leonard suffered an ankle injury in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, but they opted to sideline him for the rest of the series, rather than take a risk that would derail the superstar’s career. Without Leonard, the Spurs were swept by the Warriors in that series.

There were reports that Leonard has been distant with the Spurs since he was sidelined indefinitely [VIDEO], per Adrian Wojnarowski and Wright of ESPN. According to Wojnarowski and Wright, Leonard and his camp have been “distant” and “disconnected” from the Spurs while he recovers from the quad injury that he suffered in the preseason. However, the Spurs and Leonard's camp both denied the report.

Failure to make moves could cost Spurs

The Spurs were earlier reported to be interested in Detroit Pistons small forward Stanley Johnson [VIDEO]and New York Knicks big man Willy Hernangomez. However, the Spurs failed to make a trade for either before the trade deadline, leaving them with just Kyle Anderson as their other small forward. Anderson is expected to take Leonard’s place for the rest of the season. Rudy Gay, if healthy, could also play a big role in Popovich’s rotation. The Spurs could also sign available free agents to help fill the scoring void left by Leonard.