Sunday, July 14, 2024

Why did Kawhi Leonard withdraw from Team USA for Olympics? Clippers star replaced after return from knee injury | Sporting News

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Kawhi Leonard will not be making his Olympic debut in 2024 after all.

The Clippers superstar forward is withdrawing from Team USA for the Paris Olympics, USA Basketball announced Wednesday.

Leonard, 33, was set to represent the United States for the first time in his professional career but will instead prepare for his 13th NBA season. Here is more on Leonard’s decision to withdraw from the Olympics.

MORE: Ranking all 12 players on USA Olympics basketball roster

Why did Kawhi Leonard withdraw from Team USA for Olympics?

Team USA shared the following statement on Leonard’s decision:

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 th 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 final eight games of the 2023-24 NBA season with a knee issue and was limited to just two of the Clippers’ six games in the first round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

Members of Leonard’s camp “reached out to USA Basketball expressing concern,” per Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape.

Who is replacing Kawhi Leonard?

Celtics All-Defensive guard Derrick White is emerging as a frontrunner to replace Leonard, according to Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

White, who represented Team USA at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, has familiarity with the international game and would slide in as another versatile defender with an added ability to knock down open shots and create for others.

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