Kawhi Leonard out of US Olympics squad, Derrick White could replace him: sources

LAS VEGAS – U.S. basketball star Kawhi Leonard, who has been battling chronic knee pain and inflammation for months, will not play for the United States in the Paris Olympics and will be replaced, the U.S. Basketball Association announced Wednesday.

Boston Celtics player Derrick White is a strong candidate to replace the former star, a team source said.

White, 30, a 6-foot-4 guard who can defend taller players, comes from an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics and was part of the U.S. team at the 2019 World Cup.

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

But Leonard and the American team decided that his knee, which caused him to miss the last eight games of the regular season and most of the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round playoff win over the Dallas Mavericks, would not allow him to play at the speed needed in what is expected to be a difficult Olympic tournament.

In 2021, Kevin Love attended training camp as a member of Team USA but withdrew due to a chronic injury that prevented him from reaching acceptable levels of fitness and performance.

The Clippers and the NBA also expressed concern that Leonard could further damage his knee this summer and jeopardize his ability to play at the start of the regular season, when the Clippers open their $2 billion arena, the sources said. But teams aren’t allowed to prevent players from competing for their countries at the Olympics, so this was ultimately a decision made by Leonard and Team USA.

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Leonard has chronic inflammation due to multiple surgeries. He played in just two games in the 2023 playoffs due to a torn meniscus, and missed the entire 2021-22 season after tearing his ACL during the 2021 playoffs.

Meanwhile, White was the only player on Team USA who was not an All-Star. He averaged a career-high 15.2 points, hit nearly 40 percent of his three-pointers for the Boston Celtics, and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team.

The US team is also without star player 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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