Friday, July 12, 2024

Why isn’t Jaylen Brown on Team USA? Grant Hill addresses Celtics star’s criticism of Nike amid Olympic snub | Sporting News Australia

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In the aftermath of Kawhi Leonard’s withdrawal from Team USA ahead of the Paris Olympics, USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill moved swiftly to add NBA champion Derrick White to the roster as an injury replacement.

USA Basketball’s decision was notable in that it added a third Celtics player not named Jaylen Brown to the roster alongside Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday.

Brown, who was recently named Finals MVP and has expressed his desire to play in the Olympics in the past, appeared to send a cryptic post on X (formerly Twitter) and a not-so-subtle jab at Nike on Wednesday in response to being left off the team.

Before Team USA officially began its Olympic journey with an exhibition Wednesday, Hill addressed Brown’s apparent criticisms of Nike and of the program’s decision while providing insight on Leonard’s departure and White’s appointment as a replacement.

MORE: Why Team USA picked Derrick White to replace Kawhi Leonard

Grant Hill addresses Jaylen Brown’s apparent criticisms of Nike, USA Basketball

Hours after posting three emojis of a monocled face, Brown returned to X to ask: “Nike this what we doing?”

With the post, Brown insinuated that his rocky relationship with the Swoosh — a chief partner of USA Basketball — resulted in him missing out on a selection to the Olympic team.

“Well, for a good portion of my career, I wore Fila,” Hill joked with reporters pregame. “We’re proud of our partners, obviously at USA Basketball, but this is about putting together a team.”

Hill did not address Brown by name but responded to his Nike criticisms by reminding everyone that he was the face of Fila’s basketball division when he won Olympic gold in 1996. Still, while this year’s Team USA roster features three non-Nike athletes, Hill did acknowledge the importance of the partnership between the brand and the USA Basketball program.

MORE: Why Jaylen Brown has a problem with Nike after Olympic snub

Brown is not under contract with any sneaker company but has gone as far as to call Nike out in recent years while removing their branding from products he’s worn on court this past season.

Still, Hill maintained that the decision to go with White as Leonard’s replacement was motivated purely by basketball.

“You’ve got 12 spots,” Hill said. “You have to build a team and one of the hardest things is leaving people off the roster that I’m a fan of… Guys who’ve been Finals MVPs, guys who’ve been a part of the program, guys who’ve won gold medals, guys who I respect, admire and enjoy watching.

“But the responsibility that I have is to put together a team and a team that complements each other, a team that fits a team that will give us the best opportunity for success.”

MORE: Jaylen Brown sends cryptic tweet after Derrick White’s Team USA selection

It’s no coincidence that Hill mentioned Finals MVPs in his explanation, as Brown is the most recent player to earn the honor. Of the six Americans named NBA Finals MVP in the last 12 years, four were on Team USA’s original 12-man roster, one is retired and the other is Brown, who did not receive an invite.

In an attempt to make things crystal clear, Hill added: “Whatever theories that might be out there, they’re just that,” reiterating that the choice to appoint White was purely motivated by basketball.

“I’m trying to win and I’m trying to put together the right pieces that fit and give us a chance to win.”

Why did Kawhi Leonard withdraw from the Olympics?

In a statement released by Team USA, it was revealed that the program and the Clippers mutually decided Leonard would miss out on the Olympics to focus on the upcoming NBA season.

Leonard has been hampered by a troublesome right knee injury, missing the final stretch of the 2023-24 regular season and four of LA’s six playoff games.

MORE: Why Kawhi Leonard is withdrawing from Team USA for the Olympics

Hill did not shy away from the conversation, adding that the difficult decision was ultimately his call.

“We just felt that we had to pivot, and not to get into the particulars, in terms of what went into the decision, but we just felt it was in our best interest, but also in the Clippers’ and Kawhi’s best interest, to move into a different direction,” Hill said. “We tried. I think we all tried and we gave it a valiant effort, and unfortunately, we have to move forward.”

Hill, whose own peak was limited by longstanding injuries, expressed empathy for Leonard and disappointment that the situation could not work out. The program will now move forward with White in tow and a fifth consecutive gold medal in its crosshairs.

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