Kawhi Leonard withdraws from 2024 Olympics as Team USA, Clippers determine ‘it’s in his best interest’

Kawhi Leonard withdraws from 2024 Olympics as Team USA, Clippers determine ‘it’s in his best interest’

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is withdrawing from Team USA and will not play in the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games, USA Basketball announced on WednesdayESPN’s Marc Spears reported Wednesday that Derrick White of the Boston Celtics will replace Leonard on the roster, and that Leonard’s camp expressed concern to USA Basketball two days prior to this announcement.

Here’s the official statement from USAB:

“Kawhi has been ramping up for the Olympics over the past several weeks and had a few strong practices in Las Vegas. He felt ready to compete. However, he respects that USA Basketball and the Clippers determined it’s in his best interest to spend the remainder of the summer preparing for the upcoming season rather than participating in the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Leonard missed the last eight games of the 2023-24 regular season because of a right knee injury. He attempted to come back during the Clippers’ first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, but, after appearing in Games 2 and 3, he was sidelined again.

Team USA’s first exhibition game is Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET against Canada at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

At practice on Tuesday, Leonard told reporters, “Yeah, I think I’ll suit up tomorrow,” per ESPN. “Everything’s been good so far. [The knee has] been at a neutral state, and I hope it stays that way.” 

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, an assistant coach with Team USA, told ESPN on Tuesday, “He’s been good, the best I’ve seen him move since he got injured. Moving really good. It’s good to see him healthy and trending in the right direction.”

On Sunday, Leonard told reporters that he had previously been concerned that he might have to miss the Olympics but he “took the time, and I was able to turn around over the last two weeks,” via ESPN. Leonard said that, last season, he “tried to play as much as possible, felt great. And at a certain period of time I couldn’t go. I tried the best that I could, but it’s just my journey.”

The next step in his journey, he thought, was to play for his national team for the first time and compete for a gold medal. Ideally, this would have been a relatively low-risk situation: On one of the most stacked rosters in the history of the sport, Leonard would not have to shoulder the same kind of minutes or playmaking load that he’s used to with the Clippers. Evidently, though, he/the Clippers/USA Basketball decided that he wasn’t ready, or that the risk remained too high.

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