Kawhi Leonard out of Paris Olympics; Derrick White joins US team

Kawhi Leonard out of Paris Olympics; Derrick White joins US team

Kawhi Leonard will not be participating in the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris with the U.S. team, which replaced the Los Angeles Clippers forward with Boston Celtics guard Derrick White.

In a statement released Wednesday, the NBA said Leonard’s decision was influenced by Clippers and U.S. team officials after observing training camp in Las Vegas over the past three days.

This would have been the first Olympic trip for Leonard, who missed 12 of the Clippers’ final 14 games last season with right knee inflammation.

Clippers coach Ty Liu is on the Team USA coaching staff. Clippers representatives, including team president Lawrence Frank, attended practice at UNLV this week.

“Kawhi has been preparing for the Olympics for the past few weeks, and has been working hard in Las Vegas. He feels ready to compete,” the NBA said. “However, he respects the decision of the NBA and the Clippers that it is in his best interest to spend the rest of the summer preparing for the upcoming season rather than competing in the Olympic Games in Paris.”

White, who recently signed a four-year, $126 million contract extension, played for the U.S. national team at the 2019 World Cup. He averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists for the NBA champion Boston Celtics last season.

“I am pleased to announce that Derrick will compete in his first Olympic Games following his championship season in Boston,” said Grant Hill, USA Basketball Managing Director. “We look forward to having him join the team in the coming days as we continue to prepare for Paris.”

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“I would like to thank Kawhi for his commitment to the U.S. Men’s National Team. He has earned the opportunity to represent the United States, but the NBA and Clippers leadership felt it was important to allow Kawhi to prepare for the NBA season.”

Leonard said he had been rehabbing his knee for the past two months and wasn’t sure he would be able to play until two weeks ago, when he showed improvement.

“I took my time, and I’ve been able to get better over the last couple of weeks,” Leonard said Sunday. “So I’m here now, enjoying my time.”

Leonard said Tuesday he was planning to play in the U.S. team’s first exhibition game on Wednesday against Canada but said his knee was in “neutral” condition.

White will not be with the team on Wednesday night but is expected to join the U.S. team this week in Abu Dhabi – the first of two international stops for more matches and training before arriving in France for the Olympics.

NBA teams do not have the power to bar under-contract players from playing for their national teams, though the decision is usually mutual. Team Canada general manager Rowan Barrett said two weeks ago that the Golden State Warriors were holding forward Andrew Wiggins out of the Olympics, though the team said the decision was mutual.

The US team is also suffering from an injury to forward Kevin Durant, who was unable to participate in training due to a calf muscle injury and will not play on Wednesday evening.

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Leonard, who is set to begin a three-year, $150 million deal with the Clippers, has missed the past two seasons with right knee injuries. The two-time NBA champion and six-time All-Star has missed 256 regular-season games over the past seven years, including the entire 2021-22 campaign, with knee issues. He played in 68 games last season with the Clippers, his most since playing 74 games with San Antonio during the 2016-17 season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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