Nick Wass/Associated Press
Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard will participate in the nba All-Star Game on Sunday, and he said he was willing to accept a roster spot on another all-star team of sorts if the opportunity arose.
Leonard said he would join Team USA for the 2021 Olympics if he makes the cut.
“A lot of people were in for 2020, but just the pandemic pretty much killed everything,” Leonard said Sunday, per NBC Sports. “Right now, my plan is to go.”
The Olympic team could set up a reunion for Leonard and Gregg Popovich, who coached him when he was on the San Antonio Spurs from 2011-18.
Leonard’s verbal commitment to the Olympics sets him apart from other potential candidates. LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard haven’t given their decision either way when asked this season, per the NBC sports report.
This season’s unique schedule amid the covid-19 pandemic creates some problems for the league’s biggest stars. Game 7 of the nba Finals would be played July 22, and the Opening Ceremony for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo is scheduled for the next day.
Olympic rosters are due July 5, around the same time that USA basketball will hold a training camp, falling in the midst of the postseason. USA basketball filed a petition in February to postpone the roster date, but a ruling has not been made public. If the deadline doesn’t change, that might force the team to invoke a late-athlete replacement rule that usually is used for injuries, per NBC sports.
“The scenario, as it stands right now, does seem problematic,” Popovich said in December (h/t NBC Sports). “The timing does make everything difficult and will demand some real soul-searching and out-of-the-box type of thinking to put together the best team we possibly can.”