The San Antonio Spurs have made an indifferent start to the season in the absence of superstar Kawhi Leonard but they still possess a winning record.
Tuesday night's 120-107 win over the Los Angeles Clippers saw them move to 7-4 in the Western Conference as they continue to wait for their best player to recover from injury.
But that wait could be longer than they'd anticipated as head coach Gregg Popovich revealed that Leonard is currently behind schedule in his recovery, saying he's "just coming along more slowly" than expected.
"It's just been more difficult for him to get through the rehab routine," Popovich said.
The two-time All-Star hasn't played for the Spurs since game one of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors where he suffered an ankle injury and missed the remainder of that series.
But having recovered from that ankle problem, he underwent surgery during the offseason to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon.
Popovich and the Spurs are not looking to rush the 26-year-old back into action and are instead willing to take a patient approach as they're more focused on having him return to full health and back playing his best basketball.
"I wouldn't want him to go right from rehab to jumping on the court," Popovich said. "He's got to go 3-on-3, 5-on-5, feel comfortable because in the end, that confidence is what's going to ... anybody who's been out for any length of time has to get that back.
"Even if the doctors say, 'Yep, you're ready to go.' You're really not until you're mentally ready to go."
As well as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, San Antonio is missing its starting point guard Tony Parker and with the duo absent from the lineup, it has presented other players with an opportunity to step up such as Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson, Bryn Forbes and rookie Brandon Paul.
Veteran Manu Ginobili sees this as one positive to come out of the injuries to two of their stars.
"Every time a team has to adjust to play without their main player, others have to step up and gain confidence. They end up being better players," Ginobili said.
"I think it's a great thing for guys like Bryn [Forbes], Brandon [Paul], even Kyle [Anderson] having to be more responsible offensively, have more possessions, make more decisions.
So I think it's going to end up being a great thing for the team in the long term."