Friday, July 12, 2024

All-Defensive Star to Replace Kawhi Leonard for Team USA in Paris Olympics

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Two-time All-Defensive Second Team Boston Celtics guard Derrick White will be swapped in to substitute for All-Los Angeles Clippers small forward Kawhi Leonard on Team USA prior to the start of the 2024 Paris Olympics this summer, according to a report by Marc J. Spears of Andscape/ESPN.

Read More: All-NBA Superstar Drops Out of Team USA Prior to 2024 Paris Olympics

Team USA had just announced Leonard’s withdrawal from the program early Wednesday morning. The two-time Finals MVP has been dealing with a knee injury since the end of the 2023-24 regular season, which limited him to just two playoff games in the Clippers’ six-game first round defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks would go on to be bested in five games by White’s Celtics in the 2024 NBA Finals.

Derrick White Jaylen Brown
Derrick White #9 and Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics react after defeating the Miami Heat 104-103 in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals at Kaseya Center on May 27, 2023 in Miami,…

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White, a member of the NBA‘s All-Defensive team, will join two of his title-winning Celtics teammates on a deep Team USA roster: All-NBA combo forward Jayson Tatum and All-Defensive guard Jrue Holiday.

Perhaps a bit surprisingly, White appears to be getting the nod ahead of Boston swingman Jaylen Brown, an All-Star who makes the NBA‘s maximum salary.

The 30-year-old Colorado product emerged as a critical 3-and-D piece for a futuristic Boston club that made a major emphasis on both long range shooting and switchable defense en route to capturing its record-setting 18th league championship. All of the Celtics’ top six players — Tatum, Brown, center Kristaps Porzingis, Holiday, White, and backup big man Al Horford — are able to switch out to defend the perimeter and can nail triples at a high volume.

White, a 6-foot-4 combo guard, was traded to Boston at the 2021-22 season trade deadline deal with the San Antonio Spurs. Boston shipped out wing Josh Richardson, guard Romeo Langford, the 2022 draft rights to Blake Wesley, and first round pick swap rights in 2028. Though a reserve during this campaign, White made an instantaneous two-way impact on the club at the time, guiding it to its first NBA Finals with its Tatum/Brown core.

Read More: All-NBA Superstar Drops Out of Team USA Prior to 2024 Paris Olympics

This past season, alongside the newly-arrived Holiday (who was traded to Boston in the summer of 2023, after a championship tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks), White was a critical piece of a lethal defensive backcourt that stymied a variety of opposing offenses throughout the postseason. Porzingis was the Celtics’ other new arrival this past year. After posting a league-best 64-18 record, Boston ran roughshod through the playoffs for good measure, going 16-3.

At the start of free agency, White inked a four-year, $125.9 million contract extension that will keep him under Boston control through at least the 2027-28 season (he’ll have a player option in 2028-29).

Now, White will likely be able to add an Olympic gold medal to his trophy case this summer, joining a loaded team that, beyond his Celtics comrades, also includes Los Angeles Lakers All-NBA frontcourt stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Phoenix Suns All-Stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, Golden State Warriors All-NBA point guard Stephen Curry, Philadelphia 76ers All-NBA center Joel Embiid, Minnesota Timberwolves All-NBA shooting guard Anthony Edwards, Miami Heat All-Star Bam Adebayo, and Indiana Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton.

Read More: Celtics News: Boston Signs Key Finals Starter to Massive Contract Extension