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Sources: Kawhi Leonard back working with Spurs, eyes March return to lineup

San Antonio star Kawhi Leonard plans to resume working with the team at the Spurs' practice facility this week -- with hopes of returning by late March, league sources told ESPN.
Leonard has returned to San Antonio from New York, where he spent three weeks seeking further consultation on a right quad injury that has sidelined him for most of the season, league sources said.
Leonard isn't expected to immediately start engaging in full 5-on-5 practices with his teammates, but the goal is to advance toward that level of engagement in the near future, league sources said.
In New York, Leonard had been working out at the National Basketball Players Association headquarters gymnasium, sources said.
Leonard decided to step away from playing following a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended on Jan. 13. His return to the lineup continues to be based on his comfort level with managing the injury.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters last week that he'd be "surprised" if Leonard returns this season. Spurs officials are clearly starting to prepare Leonard's teammates for the possibility that they'll have to enter the playoffs without him. San Antonio is 36-25 and currently in third place in the Western Conference playoff chase.
The injury, rehabilitation and timetable for a return has played a part in complicating the Spurs' and Leonard's relationship, causing a fraying of what had long seemed to be a model partnership, league sources told ESPN. The uncertainty surrounding this season -- and Leonard's future, which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 -- has created significant concern at the highest levels of the organization, league sources said.
"We only have X number of games left in the season, and he's still not ready to go," Popovich told reporters in San Antonio last week. "If by some chance he is, it's gonna be pretty late into the season and it's going to be a pretty tough decision -- how late to bring somebody back. So that's why I'm just trying to be honest and logical. I'll be surprised if he gets back this year."
Leonard has developed into one of the NBA's most dominant players and had been expected to be an MVP front-runner this season. He's a two-time first-team All-NBA selection and defensive player of the year, and was named NBA Finals MVP in the 2014 championship series against Miami.
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NBA Power Rankings: Rockets, Warriors continue battle for No. 1

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It's a debate that has been held most Mondays since the Golden State Warriorsand Houston Rockets started separating themselves from the rest of the Power Rankings pack.
Best team or best season?
It's no doubt oddsmakers would favor the defending champion Warriors in a seven-game series, but this iteration of the Rockets has, arguably, had the better 2017-18 so far; a campaign filled with two double-digit win streaks, an ever-strengthening MVP case for James Harden and an offense that's on pace to shoot more 3-pointers than any team in history.
Let's just hope these two juggernauts can settle this debate on the court.
Every week throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, Amin Elhassan and Ramona Shelburne, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring) will rank the league's 30 teams from top to bottom, with research notes on each team provided by ESPN Stats & Information.
Prev.: Wk 19 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1
1. Houston Rockets
2017-18 record: 46-13
The Rockets enter the week having won 12 straight games, the longest active win streak in the NBA. They've had two of the four 12-plus-game win streaks in the league this season -- having also won 14 consecutive games from Nov. 16 to Dec. 18. On Sunday, James Harden posted his ninth 40-point game this season, which is the most in the NBA. In fact, he has three more such games than any other player (Anthony Davis has six). -- Sarah Langs

2. Golden State Warriors
2017-18 record: 46-14
On Saturday, the Warriors posted their 23rd 30-point win under Steve Kerr, 10 more than any other team since the start of the 2014-15 season. Golden State held the Thunder to 80 points, tied for its fewest allowed in a game this season. The biggest improvement was interior defense as the Warriors allowed 28 points in the paint to Oklahoma City. Entering that game, the Warriors had allowed 47.4 paint points per game, ranking 28th in the NBA. -- Matt Williams