While the Clippers officially announced most of their free agent signings today, the biggest news of the day was that superstar Kawhi Leonard was taken off the Team USA Olympic team for the 2024 Olympics. He will be replaced by Celtics guard Derrick White.

The official statement by Team USA acknowledged that Kawhi Leonard “felt ready to compete” but that USA Basketball and the Clippers determined it was best for him to prepare himself for the upcoming NBA season. There was also reporting that Kawhi’s camp had expressed concern about his participation in the Olympics.

Kawhi himself said his knee is “neutral” and that it only started feeling better about two weeks ago, which aren’t exactly strongly positive statements considering the injury first popped up back in March over three months ago. An injury without any structural damage lingering that long is not ideal.

All of this adds to a situation where Kawhi might be “healthy” and could play, but is not quite at 100% and thus could be at greater risk of further injury. It seems as though Kawhi wanted to play, but that most of the other involved parties felt it best if he didn’t.

This is a bummer for Kawhi. He hasn’t played in the Olympics, or even for Team USA proper, certainly the best player of his generation who has not done so. By the time of the next Olympics, Kawhi will likely either be retired or not the caliber of player that the Olympic squad will seek. This was his last chance to play for Team USA, and he couldn’t do it. That sucks!

For the Clippers, they can now focus on rest, rehab, and making sure Kawhi is ready for training camp in three months. It seems as though his knee is fine, or close to it, which is good. The question of whether he will ever be able to sustain months of good health with his knees is an open one, and the chances of a deep playoff run seem remote for multiple reasons. Still, hopefully Kawhi is fully ready to go at the start of the 2025 season.

Update: Grant Hill, the managing director of Team USA, has said it was ultimately Team USA’s decision to send Kawhi home, though they were in communication with the Clippers. I’m not sure this really changes much, but it seems very likely the Team USA staff saw things in practice they did not like, and that they felt it best for Kawhi’s health to send him home.

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