Kawhi Leonard out for Paris Olympics; Derrick White to Team USA

Tim Bontemps joins “NBA Today” to provide insight on how Kawhi Leonard’s withdrawal from the Olympics was a decision reached by both the Clippers and Team USA. (1:31)

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Kawhi Leonard will not play in the upcoming Paris Olympics for Team USA, which has replaced the LA Clippers forward with Boston Celtics guard Derrick White.

In a statement released Wednesday, USA Basketball implied that Leonard’s decision was influenced by the Clippers and Team USA officials after observing training camp in Las Vegas over the past three days.

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

Clippers coach Ty Lue is on the Team USA coaching staff. Representatives from the Clippers, including team president Lawrence Frank, have attended practices at UNLV this week.

“Kawhi has been ramping up for the Olympics over the last several weeks and had a few strong practices in Las Vegas. He felt ready to compete,” USA Basketball said. “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.”

White, who recently signed a four-year extension worth $126 million, played on Team USA at the 2019 World Cup. He averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists for the NBA champion Celtics this past season.

“I am happy to announce that Derrick will compete at his first Olympic Games on the heels of a championship season in Boston,” USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill said. “We look forward to him joining the team in the coming days as we continue preparations for Paris.

“I want to thank Kawhi for his commitment to the USA Men’s National Team. He earned the opportunity to represent the United States, but USA Basketball and Clippers leadership felt it’s important to allow Kawhi to prepare for the NBA season.”

Leonard said he’d been rehabbing the knee over the past two months and wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to play until two weeks ago, when he showed improvement.

“I took the time, and I was able to turn around over the last two weeks,” Leonard said Sunday. “So I’m out here now and, yeah, I’m having a good time.”

Leonard said Tuesday that he was planning to play in Team USA’s first exhibition game Wednesday night against Team Canada but referred to his knee being in a “neutral” state.

White will not be with the team Wednesday night but is expected to join Team USA this weekend in Abu Dhabi — the first of two international stops for more games and practices before arriving in France for the Olympics.

NBA teams don’t have the ability to prevent players under contract for playing for their national teams, though typically it ends up being a mutual decision. 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 it was a mutual decision.

Team USA also is dealing with an injury to forward Kevin Durant, who hasn’t been able to take part in contact practice due to a calf strain and will not play Wednesday night.

Leonard, who is about to start a three-year, $150 million deal with the Clippers, hasn’t been able to finish the past two postseasons because of right knee injuries. The two-time NBA champion and six-time All-NBA player has missed 256 regular-season games over the past seven years, including all of the 2021-22 season with knee trouble. He appeared in 68 games this past season for the Clippers, his most since playing in 74 for San Antonio during the 2016-17 season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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