Sunday, July 14, 2024

Kawhi Leonard withdraws from Olympics as Derrick White takes roster spot

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A roster spot on the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team opened on Wednesday as Kawhi Leonard was forced to withdraw due to lingering injuries he sustained last season with the Clippers.

“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,” USA Basketball said in a statement.

In his place, Marc J. Spears of Andscape reports that Celtics point guard Derrick White will be replacing Leonard on the roster.

White was seemingly chosen over Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who made second-team All-NBA this past season as one of the league’s top players.

The Knicks guard averaged 28.7 points per game in 2023-24 on 40.1 percent from 3-point range on 6.8 attempts.

Kawhi Leonard will be out of the Olympic Games for Team USA. NBAE via Getty Images

White averaged 15.2 PPG and 39.6 percent from 3-point range and the same 6.8 attempts per game.

While White may have been chosen for his defensive chops that helped the Celtics win the NBA Championship, it is also possible that Brunson was the choice but is still recovering from a broken left hand that he sustained on May 17.

Leonard sustained a right knee injury at the end of the season for the Clippers, which promptly ended their playoff run before it began.

The Clippers star had previously noted that his knee was not 100 percent but was hopeful to be able to suit up for the Olympics.

Derrick White will replace Kawhi Leonard. Getty Images
Jalen Brunson gets snubbed again by the Olympic team. Getty Images

“Yeah. But I took the time, and I was able to turn around over the last two weeks,” Leonard told ESPN on Sunday. “So, I’m out here now and, yeah, I’m having a good time.”

That appears to have flipped as of Wednesday with the latest announcement as the squad prioritizes perimeter defense.

The 2024 Olympics begin on July 26 and run through Aug. 11.

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