What happened to Olympic basketball star Kawhi Leonard?

What happened to Olympic basketball star Kawhi Leonard?

The Olympic men’s basketball team has a stellar record (let’s not talk about 2004). They’ve won a gold medal in the last four Olympics and are gearing up to do it again in Paris. There have been some setbacks though, notably the recent injury of Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard. So what happened? Well, to be honest, it’s not great news.

Unfortunately, Leonard is not going to make an appearance on the floor at the Olympics. Leonard is 33 and back in April he was visibly dealing with knee pain during the Clippers’ first-round playoff defeat to the eventual finalists the Dallas Mavericks (the team lost the championship to the Boston Celtics). He missed 12 of the team’s last 14 games dealing with that same knee inflammation.

On July 10, Team USA released a statement about the issue, saying that the star had been “ramping up for the Olympics” for “several weeks and had a few strong practices in Las Vegas.” The statement then said Leonard “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.”

Even more tragic is the fact that this would be Leonard’s first Olympic games. USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill then announced that Boston Celtics guard Derrick White would be taking his place, per ESPN. One man’s tragedy is another’s treasure, because now White is going to compete in his first ever Olympic games himself.

“We look forward to him joining the team in the coming days as we continue preparations for Paris,” Hill said. Leonard’s knee was closely watched by team officials and Leonard himself said he’d been rehabbing the knee for two months and didn’t know if he was going to play until two weeks ago when it started to improve.

“I took the time, and I was able to turn around over the last two weeks,” Leonard said on July 14. “So I’m out here now and, yeah, I’m having a good time.”

Leonard is a two-time NBA champion and he’s been an All-NBA player six times. He’s missed more than 250 games over seven years dealing with his knee, and he was out the entire 2021-2022 season. This past season, he played in 68 games, his most since the 2016-2017 season, when he played in 74.

White was not with the team during its exhibition 86-72 victory against Canada on July 10, but he is expected to join the team in Abu Dhabi when it faces Australia on July 15.

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