Kawhi Leonard Withdraws from Team USA for 2024 Olympics, Derrick White Replaces Him

Kawhi Leonard Withdraws from Team USA for 2024 Olympics, Derrick White Replaces Him
Image Credit: Kawhi Leonard

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has withdrawn from Team USA and will not participate in the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games, USA Basketball announced on Wednesday. In his place, Derrick White of the Boston Celtics has been added to the roster.

Here is the official statement from USA Basketball regarding Leonard:

“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.”

ESPN’s Marc Spears reported that Leonard’s camp raised concerns to USA Basketball two days before the announcement.

Leonard missed the final eight games of the 2023-24 regular season due to a right knee injury. He attempted a comeback during the Clippers’ first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, but after playing in Games 2 and 3, he was sidelined again.

Team USA’s first exhibition game is scheduled for Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET against Canada at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

At a practice on Tuesday, Leonard told reporters, “Yeah, I think I’ll suit up tomorrow,” per ESPN. “Everything’s been good so far. [The knee has] been at a neutral state, and I hope it stays that way.”

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, also an assistant coach for Team USA, told ESPN on Tuesday, “He’s been good, the best I’ve seen him move since he got injured. Moving really good. It’s good to see him healthy and trending in the right direction.”

Leonard had expressed concerns about missing the Olympics but felt he had turned a corner over the past two weeks. “I tried to play as much as possible, felt great. And at a certain period of time I couldn’t go. I tried the best that I could, but it’s just my journey,” Leonard said on Sunday.

Initially, Kawhi Leonard hoped to join the national team for the first time and compete for a gold medal. Given the depth of the roster, he wouldn’t have needed to shoulder heavy minutes or a significant playmaking load. However, the Clippers and USA Basketball ultimately decided the risk was too high.

Had Leonard participated, he would have offered Steve Kerr’s coaching staff the ability to deploy large, versatile lineups, potentially playing alongside LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Jayson Tatum. His absence, though significant, doesn’t leave Team USA lacking in versatility or shot creation. Replacing Leonard with White might actually create a more balanced team dynamic.

White, 30, is the only member of Team USA who has never made an All-Star Game, though he had a strong case this year due to his two-way impact on the Boston Celtics. He’s known for his exceptional defense, shooting accuracy, and decision-making. White’s adaptability makes him a perfect fit for Team USA, allowing the stars to shine while he ties the team together. Kerr might even choose to play him alongside his Celtics teammates Tatum and Jrue Holiday, maximizing team chemistry.


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