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Why isn’t Kawhi Leonard playing for Team USA in the Olympics?

Team USA begins their preOlympic tour tonight against Canada, but they will be without Kawhi Leonard for tonight’s game and in Paris.

Kawhi Leonard, alero de Los Angeles Clippers, ante New Orleans Pelicans.
Stephen LewUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Team USA and the Los Angeles Clippers have decided that Kawhi Leonard will not be a part of the Olympic team headed to Paris later this month. The decision comes just a few hours before Team USA is set to start their pre-Olympic Showcase against Canada in Las Vegas.

Leonard to miss out on Paris

Both USA basketball and the Clippers came to the joint decision on Wednesday morning citing it’s in Leonard’s best interest is to withdraw from the team and miss the Paris games to focus on LA’s upcoming season. This would have been Kawhi’s first time playing with the Olympic team.

It’s no secret that Kawhi has dealt with a handful of injuries over the course of his career, especially since he arrived in Los Angeles. This past season Leonard played the most games he has played since the 2016/17 season when he was playing with the San Antonio Spurs. He played 68 games, but only played in two of the Clippers first round playoff games against the Dallas Mavericks because of a knee injury.

The Clippers would lose that series in six games, and to add to the long list of playoff disappointments over the last few years. Kawhi’s injuries have been in the center of all of the early exits from the postseason. Back in the 2021 playoffs he suffered torn ACL that kept him out of the rest of that postseason and forced him to miss the entire next season. Since then he has been off and on the injury report countless times.

Kawhi the face of new look Clips

Leonard had spent the last few days with the US team in Las Vegas, and told reporters “everything is going good,” as of a few days ago, so this news may come as a shock to Leonard. The Clippers are in a delicate situation at the moment. They are on the verge of opening up a new stadium, they have a new logo and are going through a bit of a rebirth.

Kawhi is going to be at the center of the new age Clippers even more considering Paul George left Los Angeles and signed with the Philadelphia 76ers during free agency last week. Now it’s going to be him and James Harden trying to bring the relocated, new-look Clippers into their new era.

Derrick White will replacement for Leonard on Team USA. White played with Team USA back in the 2019 World Cup, but his career has skyrocketed since joining the Boston Celtics in the 2022 season. He has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team the last two years, and just won an NBA Championship with potential Team USA teammate Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics.