Sunday, July 14, 2024

Kawhi Leonard withdraws from Team USA, Paris Olympics

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LAS VEGAS — After a physically demanding first day of USA Basketball practice on July 6, Kawhi Leonard walked across the court in his slides with a slight limp, the remnant of the right knee issues that had sidelined him during the NBA playoffs. He played less at the following day’s practice but was a full participant Tuesday in the team’s walk-through.

“I’ll be good tomorrow,” Leonard said, playing in an exhibition against Canada on Wednesday. “Everything’s been good so far; it has been in a neutral state, and hopefully it stays that way.”

The Clippers and USA Basketball didn’t think his knee had remained neutral, and, at their request, Leonard withdrew from Team USA and the Paris Olympics.

Leonard will spend the rest of the offseason getting his knee right before Clippers training camp opens in the fall.

Leonard’s exit leaves a large hole on the roster. Coach Steve Kerr and USA Basketball had wanted Leonard largely to be a lock-down defender — although his offensive game certainly would help — and his replacement has to step into that defensive role.

Celtics guard Derrick White is Leonard’s expected replacement, something that had been rumored in the run-up to training camp if Leonard couldn’t go, and has been confirmed by multiple reports (though it’s not yet official).

White was an All-Defensive Team guard this past season who also shot 39.6% from 3, helping lead Boston to the NBA title. White would make three Celtics on the roster, joining Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday.

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