Kawhi Leonard out for Team USA in Olympics, Derrick White could replace: Sources


LAS VEGAS  — Team USA star forward Kawhi Leonard, who has been battling chronic knee soreness and inflammation for months, will not play for the U.S. in the Paris Olympics and will be replaced, USA Basketball announced Wednesday.

Boston Celtics’ Derrick White is considered a strong replacement candidate, team sources said.

White, 30, a 6-foot-4 guard who can defend taller players, is coming off an NBA championship run with the Celtics and was on the 2019 U.S. World Cup team.

Leonard, 33, attended Team USA’s training camp and was on the court for every practice and scrimmage. He insisted his ailing left knee was feeling better, and coaches said he was performing well while “ramping up” to full speed for the Olympics.

But Leonard and the U.S. team decided his knee, which caused him to miss the last eight games of the regular season and most of the LA Clippers’ first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, would not allow him to play at the speed necessary in what’s expected to be a hard-fought Olympic tournament.

In 2021, Kevin Love came to training camp as a member of Team USA but removed himself because of a lingering injury that prevented him from reaching acceptable conditioning and performance levels.

The Clippers and the NBA were also concerned Leonard could do further damage to his knee this summer and put his status for the start of the regular season in jeopardy, when the Clippers open their $2 billion Intuit Dome Arena, the sources said. But teams are not permitted to prevent players from competing for their countries in the Olympics, so this was ultimately a decision made by Leonard and Team USA.

Leonard deals with chronic inflammation from the multiple surgeries he’s had. He played in just two playoff games in 2023 due to a torn meniscus, and missed the entire 2021-22 season after tearing his ACL during the 2021 playoffs.

White, meanwhile, would be the only player on Team USA to never have been an All-Star. He averaged a career high 15.2 points and shot nearly 40 percent from 3 for the Celtics, and was named a second-team All-Defense player.

Team USA is also missing star forward Kevin Durant due to a calf injury, but Durant could return to the court in Abu Dhabi next week.

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(Photo: Brian Babineau / NBAE via Getty Images)





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