Spurs F Kawhi Leonard will not return Thursday against the Pelicans

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich threw cold water Tuesday night on reports the return of All-NBA Kawhi Leonard is imminent, saying the All-NBA forward still hasn't been cleared to play by his medical staff.

Previously, Leonard was said to be targeting a return this Thursday.

External optimism had built for Leonard's potential return this week, but he is expected to be remain out and will continue to evaluate his injury for a possible comeback before the season ends, league sources said. He said earlier this week that he planned to return "soon" from the injury, which has kept him out of all but nine games so far this season. However, Parker tries to dampen expectations that Leonard [VIDEO] can turn the team around.

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The 2014 Finals MVP was named First-Team All-NBA in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Citing sources, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday afternoon that Leonard would not play Thursday.

"Until he gets cleared, we can't make a decision on when he's coming back", Popovich continued. According to reports, he is feeling "much better" but is still not comfortable enough on his injured quadriceps to return to the floor.

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The Spurs have dropped from third in the Western Conference standings to seventh after dropping eight of their last 10 games. He has averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 29.9 minutes per game this season. As the standings are now, Utah is just one game behind the Spurs over whom they already own the tiebreaker considering that they've gone 3-0 against them this year.

The Spurs badly need a spark from somewhere to avoid missing out on the playoffs and it could potentially come this week as they look set to welcome back one of the league's best players.

With 15 games to play, the Rockets are now 53-14, and their magic number to clinch the West's top seed is 13.

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