Kawhi Leonard’s past breakup with the San Antonio Spurs won’t prevent him from playing for coach Gregg Popovich at the Tokyo Olympics.
Leonard said prior to Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game that he plans to play for USA Basketball this summer.
The Tokyo Games were initially slated for last summer but were pushed back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of people were in for 2020, but just the pandemic pretty much killed everything,” said Leonard, a five-time All-Star now with the Los Angeles Clippers. “Right now, my plan is to go.”
If Leonard is part of the 12-man roster, he will be playing for Popovich, his former coach with the Spurs for seven seasons.
Leonard had a nasty breakup with San Antonio, playing just nine games in 2017-18 due to a quadriceps injury. The two sides sparred over the treatment of the injury and players on the Spurs were highly frustrated by Leonard seldom being around the team.
Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors following the season. After leading the Raptors to the NBA title, he joined the Clippers as a free agent in the offseason.
One potential problem could be the NBA schedule. Due to the season starting later, the playoffs stretch deep into July with a potential Game 7 of the NBA Finals slated for July 22.
The Opening Ceremonies are set for the following day with the first basketball competitions scheduled for July 26.
“It doesn’t really matter how much success that we have,” said Leonard, referring to the Clippers. “If I feel up to it, if I feel ready to go around that time, then I’m going to play.”
Leonard was named NBA Finals MVP when the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in 2014. He also won MVP honors when Toronto beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 finals.
Leonard is averaging 26.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 30 games this season.
–Field Level Media