Kawhi Leonard's withdrawal from Team USA raises one major question for Clippers

After Kawhi withdrew from the United States Olympic squad, one all-important question remains for the Clippers.
Jabari Smith, Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid
Jabari Smith, Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Plenty of LA Clippers fans were gearing up to watch Kawhi Leonard represent the United States at the Olympics in Paris this summer. After all, the US has put together one of its strongest rosters for international competition in years, and the gold medal seems to be theirs for the taking.

However, a Wednesday morning news drop foiled Kawhi's involvement with the Olympic team, with Shams Charania announcing he would withdraw from the competition. According to the insider, Leonard's knee injury that caused him to miss most of the Clippers' first-round series with the Mavericks this year is the primary concern that led to him withdrawing.

This is an unfortunate development for fans that wanted to see the United States at full strength for the Olympics, but even worse news for Clippers fans. We are all aware of Kawhi's extensive injury history, and the prospect of him playing for the Olympic team this summer was always a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.

Kawhi's long-term health once again comes into question

After Leonard missed the Clippers' final eight regular season games as well as four out of the team's six playoff games against Dallas in the 2023-24 season, there were already very legitimate concerns about his long-term health. Kawhi has missed long stretches of time due to major injuries during his Clippers tenure, and has not finished a playoff series healthy since 2020.

With him once again exiting the season with his health in question this year, many doubted his ability to be involved with the Olympic team. So it came as a bit of a shock to many when he came forth as a full-time participant for the international competition.

Some saw it as a sign that he had already healed from his knee ailment that kept him out of the playoffs in April and May, while others wondered whether putting more undue stress on his body in the offseason was truly a wise move. As it turns out, Kawhi was not yet ready to be back participating in the kind of hard-fought, high-intensity basketball that will be played at the Olympics.

As hard as it is to say, this has to raise questions about next season for Kawhi Leonard in the minds of Clippers fans. Based on what we know now, it is entirely possible that his training with Team USA set him back physically, which could very easily affect how healthy he is come October. The entire Clippers organization should be doing everything they can to ensure his health is protected between now and then.