San Antonio Spurs notes
Gregg Popovich celebrated his 66th birthday on Wednesday with a win over Charlotte, the Spurs’ ninth victory in 11 games. He got an early birthday present with the return of Kawhi Leonard, who missed 17 of 19 games with a hand injury before returning to the lineup on Jan. 16. In seven games this month, Leonard is averaging 15.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He’s had three games with at least 14 rebounds. In short, his energy and physicality have raised the bar for a team that’s been fighting to keep pace on the heels of an outstanding postseason run in 2014. With Tony Parker nursing a bad hamstring for the better part of two months, and posting his lowest scoring (14.5 ppg) and assist (4.7 apg) numbers since his rookie season (2001-02), other players have stepped up. In 16 games since returning from a shoulder injury, Patty Mills is averaging 10.1 points in 20.5 minutes and shooting 39.4 percent from three-point range.