Over the Zydeco flow of teeming conversation filling a cramped hall at New Orleans' Smoothie King Center, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich realized midsentence what lies ahead for his staff.

"When Kawhi [Leonard] does come back," Popovich said, "I've got some figuring out to do."

Dilemma might not be the right word to describe what Popovich and the Spurs face with the return of veteran point guard Tony Parker, who made his season debut Monday in the team's win over the Dallas Mavericks, and with Leonard inching closer to full recovery from quadriceps tendinopathy. But at the very least, Popovich knows the Spurs will soon "have to learn to play together again," as general manager R.C. Buford described.

Missing its best pick-and-roll player in Parker and its top defender and scorer in Leonard, San Antonio still managed to reel off a 12-7 record, good for third in the West, on the strength of dominating performances from a more comfortable LaMarcus Aldridge and a bevy of supporting contributors.

The Spurs will worry when the time comes about how to properly incorporate Parker and Leonard. For now, they continue to do more with less, knowing the current state of affairs could prove beneficial in the future once the team is again whole.

"The team's done a terrific job of coming together. A lot of new players," Buford told ESPN. "I think Pau [Gasol] and LaMarcus have obviously been significant and the contributions of other guys who have filled in and come together well. We're obviously not the best team in the league. But the group has taken care of its responsibilities in a way that puts them in a position to win.

"This is a group that has played together for a quarter of the season, and it'll be on everybody to figure out how to play well together [when Leonard returns]. We'll all need to learn how to play together differently. I don't think that there's trepidation. That's just part of team building, growing as a team."