As Spurs struggle on the road without Kawhi, Pop says team has to 'play for themselves'

DENVER -- On an empty court inside the Pepsi Center, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich explained that his squad can't hold out for a hero in light of the revelation that star forward Kawhi Leonard probably would miss the rest of the season.
"We've pretty much been that way, but this is the last 23 games of the season," Popovich said. "It doesn't do any good to be wishing and hoping that somebody's going to be added, and save the day, and all that silly stuff. These guys have got to go play for themselves and do what they do."
San Antonio attempted just that Friday but dropped its fourth consecutive outing, falling 122-119 to the Denver Nuggets as the Spurs continued on the fifth game of their annual rodeo road trip without Leonard in tow.
While a few Spurs cling to optimism regarding Leonard's potential return, the collective mindset of the team is it needs to conduct business as if the forward isn't coming back.
That's not easy.
"We should have that attitude that he's not going to come back, that's for sure," said veteran point guard Tony Parker, who came back in November from a ruptured quadriceps tendon suffered last season in the playoffs. "At the same time, we're still going to be hopeful and positive. That's just human. But at the same time, you have to be realistic."
The reality is the Spurs sought the best tendon experts in the world to work with Parker as he recovered from quadriceps tendon surgery, and Leonard throughout his recovery process from right quadriceps tendinopathy. Their treatment proved effective for Parker, but not Leonard, who continues to rehab, yet still feels pain.
Leonard missed the first 27 games of the regular season, and returned to play in nine outings before the Spurs sidelined the forward indefinitely last month. Leonard has told the organization at various stages of his rehabilitation process that he wasn't comfortable with his ability to play through the injury, and that the Spurs should shut him down.