Clippers' Kawhi Leonard says he plans to play for Team USA during Tokyo Olympics

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Andrew Greif
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, is defended by Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale.
Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is defended by Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale during the first half Feb. 19 at Staples Center. (Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard said he plans to play on Team USA during this summer’s Tokyo Olympics regardless of how far his team plays in the NBA’s upcoming postseason.

“Right now my plan is to go,” Leonard said Sunday, during a videoconference with reporters hours before the NBA held its All-Star Game in Atlanta, where Leonard will start for the team captained by Kevin Durant. “It doesn’t really matter on the success that we have. If I feel up to it and feel ready to go around that time then I’m going to play.”

How players whose teams advance deeply in the playoffs will be able to take part in the Olympics, too, is a thorny, unresolved question. The playoffs are scheduled to end July 22. The Olympics’ men’s basketball tournament is scheduled to run from July 23 through Aug. 7, with the U.S. men opening preliminary round play July 25 against France. In the past a final 12-man roster has been due in the weeks before the games open.

In January, USA Basketball sent invitations to around 60 players interested in being included in the pool from which the team will be selected.

Last year, Leonard and teammate Paul George expressed interest in playing with Team USA and were later named finalists for the 2020 Olympic team, only for the Summer Games to be postponed one month later because of the pandemic. George won a gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics; Leonard has not represented the U.S.

Organizers are continuing to plan to hold the Games, perhaps without spectators, even while Japan remains hard hit by the pandemic.

The popularity of hosting the international competition has been broadsided by public opinion in the country, but Toshiro Muto, the chief executive of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee, told Japan’s Kyodo News on Friday that "there are people who say the games should be postponed, but from my view, pushing them back is impossible. Holding them in July is the latest option."

Paul George feels better

After missing the Clippers’ final game before the All-Star break because of dizziness, George said Sunday that his health is “all good.”

“I think I had too much caffeine and it really just blew me out,” George said on a videoconference. “It had me dizzy and I was tweaking. I think it was just too much caffeine at that time and it made me real jittery, sped me up, and I just was dizzy, I couldn’t play.

“It’s a lesson learned on that situation.”

George is making his seventh All-Star appearance after averaging 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 49% from the field and a career-high 45% on three-pointers. Honored by the inclusion, he nonetheless reiterated feelings he expressed in February that holding this year’s game was unnecessary because of the pandemic. The NBA announced early Sunday that two participants, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, would not be able to take part because of contact tracing after being ruled a close contact with an individual who had tested positive.

"We have situations like we're dealing with today,” George said. “It's an unfortunate time in the world where our health and safety should be at the front of the helm. I personally didn't agree with the game but it is what it is."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.