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Why Kawhi Leonard Isn’t Playing in the Olympics? Grant Hill Explains

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LAS VEGAS – USA Basketball has teamed up with the Los Angeles Clippers to replace Kawhi Leonard on its roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics, men’s general manager Grant Hill announced Wednesday.

“We just felt like we needed to pivot, and we didn’t go into detail about what went into the decision, but we felt like it was in our best interest, and in the best interest of the Clippers and Kawhi, to move in a different direction,” Hill said. “And we tried. I think we all tried and made a valiant effort to do that, and unfortunately we have to move forward.”

USA Basketball announced earlier in the day that Leonard was out and named Boston Celtics guard Derrick White as his replacement. Hill said Nike’s partnership had nothing to do with the fact that Boston did not invite Jaylen Brown.

“You have 12 spots and you have to build a team,” Hill said.

USA Basketball is also monitoring Kevin Durant’s calf injury. The Phoenix Suns star did not practice during a five-day training camp that ended with an exhibition game in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

This was to be Leonard’s first Olympics. Leonard, who missed the Clippers’ last three playoff games in April because of a sore right knee, arrived in Las Vegas last week for the team’s training camp and told reporters Sunday that he was in good physical condition.

“Good. I’m ready to go,” Leonard told reporters. “I’m playing right now, so I’m happy.”

She admitted she had concerns about playing in the Olympics but said: “I took my time and I was able to turn it around in the last two weeks. Now I’m here and yeah, I’m having a good time.”

Leonard had surgery to repair a torn ACL three years ago and surgery a year ago to repair a meniscus injury in his right knee. He also missed the final eight games of the regular season.

USA Basketball personnel, who watched Leonard in practice for four days, discussed Leonard’s future with the team on Tuesday.

“My approach was just, ‘Let’s get through four days. Let’s hope we can get through four days and then take a step back and evaluate,'” Hill said.

Hill said he called White later in the day to make sure White’s schedule would allow him to make that commitment.

“One of the things I really like about Derrick and this team in particular is I don’t feel like his role on our team has changed much from what he did with the Celtics,” Hill said. “He’s playing with two incredibly great young players, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. And that environment, when you come in and you’re kind of … the center of your universe and now you have to define a role and it might be different than what you need to do on your team.

“And so we have someone who can come in and play against players, complement others, but also come out and play dynamite defense, hit shots and impact the win.”

A key player on Boston’s 2023-24 championship team, White averaged 15.2 points, 5.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals last season, shooting 46.1 percent from the field, 39.6 percent from three-point range and 90.1 percent from free throw range. He was named to the All-Defensive team for the second consecutive season.

White gives the U.S. another strong defender who can defend multiple positions and is a capable scorer. He has scored in double figures in 17 of Boston’s 19 playoff games and has scored at least 15 points in 12 of those games, including 38 points against Miami in the first round.