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    Kawhi Leonard is off the U.S. Olympic team
    • July 10, 2024

    By TIM REYNOLDS

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kawhi Leonard will not be part of the U.S. men’s basketball team that will compete in the Paris Games after all.

    It would have been the first Olympic trip for Leonard, who missed 12 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ final 14 games this past season with right knee inflammation. USA Basketball said it, along with the Clippers, made the decision on Leonard’s status.

    “Kawhi has been ramping up for the Olympics over the past several weeks and had a few strong practices in Las Vegas,” USA Basketball said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

    USA Basketball will be permitted to replace Leonard on the 12-man roster and was working toward bringing in Boston Celtics guard Derrick White to take his place, a person with knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because USA Basketball did not reveal that publicly, and it wasn’t immediately clear when the addition would be finalized.

    Leonard is a two-time NBA champion, six-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA player, but injury issues have been a recurring theme in his career.

    He has missed 256 regular-season games over the last 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.

    “This is just my journey,” Leonard said earlier this week, discussing his injuries. “I can’t lay out the perfect script for me. Last year 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. I don’t want to be in a situation that (I’m) in, but I’ve got to take it for what it is. And a lot of people are watching, supporters or doubters. But I motivate a lot of people, so I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing.”

    Leonard — part of a 592-person Olympic team formally named by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee earlier Wednesday — had said earlier this week that his knee was fine and he was able to resume on-court training about three weeks ago to get ready for the Games.

    “I’m ready to go,” Leonard said then. “I’m playing now so, I’m happy.”

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    A couple of days later, hours before the first U.S. exhibition game against Canada and one day before the team departs for Abu Dhabi — the first of two international stops for more games and practices before arriving in France for the Olympics — Leonard was gone.

    That leaves the U.S., at least for the very short term, with 10 available players. Kevin Durant will not play against Canada because of a calf strain and could not compete in the team’s four-day training camp in Las Vegas that ended Tuesday.

    Leonard had been invited to be part of USA Basketball teams in the past and had to decline for various reasons, primarily injury issues or long playoff runs.

    “I always wanted to play against other talent overseas or just other basketball styles and players,” Leonard said. “It is one of the reasons why I play the game.”

    ​ Orange County Register 

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