NBA

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

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 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.

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. LA listed him as out with right knee inflammation.

Members of Leonard’s camp “reached out to USA Basketball expressing concern,” per Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape. The Athletic’s Joe Vardon and Shams Charania added that Leonard has been “battling chronic knee soreness and inflammation for months.”

Leonard underwent daily treatment in the lead-up to camp for Team USA. He told media members that he was “ready to go.”

Before his injury, Leonard appeared to have returned to MVP form. Over 68 games with the Clippers in 2023-24, he posted averages of 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

Who is replacing Kawhi Leonard?

Celtics All-Defensive guard Derrick White will replace Leonard, according to Spears.

White, who represented Team USA at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, is familiar 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.

During Boston’s championship run, White averaged 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He will join Celtics teammates Jrue Holiday and Jayson Tatum on Team USA.

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

USA Basketball schedule

USA Basketball Showcase — Pre-Olympic exhibitions

Date Opponent Location Time (ET) TV channel
July 10 Canada Las Vegas 10:30 p.m. FS1, Fubo
July 15 Australia Abu Dhabi 12 p.m. FS1, Fubo
July 17 Serbia Abu Dhabi 12 p.m. FS1, Fubo
July 20 South Sudan London 3 p.m. Fox, Fubo
July 22 Germany London 3 p.m. Fox, Fubo

USA Basketball Olympic schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET) TV channel
July 28 Serbia 11:15 a.m. NBC
July 31 South Sudan 3 p.m. NBC
Aug. 3 Puerto Rico 11:15 a.m. NBC

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