Even without Kawhi Leonard, Team USA defeats Canada

Before Team USA took the court to meet Canada in an exhibition game, the story of the day was about Kawhi Leonard being sent back to Los Angeles from training camp because he wasn’t healthy enough to compete in the Paris Olympics.

After the fourth day of practice, Grant Hill, the managing director of Team USA, said he informed Leonard on Tuesday night that it was smarter for him and the Clippers that he prepare for the upcoming 2024-25 season.

“We just felt it was in our best interest, but also the Clippers and Kawhi’s best interest to move into a different direction,” Hill said before Team USA defeated Canada, 86-72, Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena. “We tried. I think we all tried and gave it a valiant effort and unfortunately we have to move forward.”

Leonard missed the final eight regular season games and four of six playoff games in the Clippers’ first-round series against Dallas with right knee inflammation. His last game was April 26, Game 3 in Dallas.

He had been working out leading up to the training camp that started Saturday with hopes of being able to play.

“My approach was let’s get through the four days, let’s hope we can get through the four days and then let’s take a step back and evaluate,” Hill said. “So, really looking at the totality of the camp and conferring with the Clippers and speaking with Kawhi and his representation and figuring out the next move. So, that was at least my thought process coming into camp.”

Derrick White is the replacement for Leonard.

“Our decision was made,” Hill said. “I think we were open and honest and understanding through it all. Like I said, my heart goes out, but we have to do what’s best for the team and protect the team, give ourselves the best opportunity for success.”

Lakers forward Anthony Davis had one of the top performances for Team USA, coming off the bench to register a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Anthony Edwards, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, led with 13 points, and Stephen Curry, of the Golden State Warriors had 12.

Team USA leaves Thursday for Abu Dhabi for two more exhibition games against Australia and Serbia and then it will travel to London for games against South Sudan and Germany.

Team USA will open the Olympics against Serbia on July 28.

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