Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said that Kawhi Leonard will miss his second straight game with an injury to his right hand. Kawhi is out with a hand.
"Nothing is broken or anything like that but catching and dribbling are pretty much impossible for him right now," Popovich said of Leonard's bruised right hand. "It's tough for him to be out there and we don't want him to get hit again."
For what it's worth, Danny Green reported during shoot-around that Leonard seemed to get through it without any ill-effects, but maybe he experienced soreness afterward. Leonard originally hurt his hand in a collision in the latter stages of the loss at Utah on Tuesday night. Leonard missed 14 games with a broken metacarpal in the same hand last season. Though this injury doesn't figure to be anywhere near that severe, it's not out of the question that Leonard may miss another game or two.
The news is better elsewhere on the injury front. Tony Parker will be back in the starting lineup after missing the past three games with a slight strain in his left hamstring and both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will play after being rested on Wednesday night against the Knicks.
The best news, however, is that Tiago Splitter did come through unscathed after playing a few second-half minutes against the Knicks and didn't re-aggravate his calf injury.
"They said he can play tonight and a few more minutes," said Popovich regarding Splitter. "The last time (he tried playing, on Nov. 5 against the Hawks), they said he was done for three more weeks. So, I think this is a better prognosis. I think we played him 8:02, we were two seconds off from what they wanted us to do, so tonight maybe 12 or 15 (minutes)."
The big story of tonight's game, obviously, is that Kobe Bryant is 31 points away from passing Michael Jordan for third all-time on the scoring list. Naturally, Pop didn't want to get into comparisons, but he offered some praise for Bryant, who's been a thorn at his side for nearly two decades now.
"It's a heck of a body of work, for sure," Popovich said of Bryant's career. "Obviously it's proof that he's quite an accomplished individual, both skill-wise and competitiveness-wise. One of the all-time ultimate warriors on the court, and you don't get to that point without that."
As for specifics on defending Bryant, particularly with Leonard out, Pop wasn't biting. "You don't stop guys like that," he warned. "You just try to make them work hard for everything they get, hope they have a bad night, but there's nothing you can really do to stop somebody cold. If you take the ball away from anybody for a while, they figure out how to use their teammates to try and win a basketball game. They're special people."
Popovich did offer a different perspective about the difference, from his standpoint, in coaching against Jordan as opposed to Bryant.
"I sat on the bench and watched as an ignorant assistant," he said of competing against Jordan. "I actually got to watch the game because I didn't know what I was doing so I just watched people, to be honest with you."
So all it takes to be a Hall-of-Fame coach is to watch basketball? There's hope for us yet,