Derrick White added to Celtics-heavy Olympic team, replacing Kawhi Leonard

Derrick White’s dream summer just got even more spectacular.

After winning his first NBA championship last month and then signing a four-year, $125.9 contract extension with the Celtics, White now can add “Olympian” to his resume.

The 30-year-old guard on Wednesday was added to Team USA’s roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics, according to multiple reports. He replaced Kawhi Leonard, who withdrew from the team due to injury.

White’s addition meant Boston players now make up one-quarter of the star-studded 12-man squad, as fellow Celtics champions Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday both were selected to the initial Olympic roster.

Tatum is coming off three consecutive first-team All-NBA seasons and led the Celtics in points, rebounds and assists during their playoff run before signing the largest contract in NBA history (five years, $314 million) earlier this month.

White and Holiday are ultra-versatile veterans who formed the league’s best defensive backcourt this past season. Both also shot better than 40% from three during the postseason, ranking fourth and fifth among the 55 playoff participants who averaged at least 4.5 3-point attempts per game.

White, who previously represented the U.S. at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, recently told the Herald he’d gladly accept an Olympic invite. While he might be the least flashy name on a roster loaded with All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, his unselfishness should make him a valuable depth piece for head coach Steve Kerr.

“Any chance you can play for your country and just try to win a gold medal, I think that would definitely be something that, if Kawhi (can’t play) and they ask me, I’ll definitely be looking forward to,” White said.

Leonard had been participating in Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas — where it practiced against a select side featuring Celtics backup Payton Pritchard — and wanted to play in Paris, according to a statement from USA Basketball. But both the federation and Leonard’s team, the Los Angeles Clippers, preferred he sit out as he recovers from a lingering knee injury that sidelined him for four of LA’s six playoff games.

“Kawhi has been ramping up for the Olympics over the past several weeks and had a few strong practices in Las Vegas,” the statement read. “He felt ready to compete. However, he respects that USA Basketball and the Clippers determined it’s in his best interest to spend the remainder of the summer preparing for the upcoming season rather than participating in the Olympic Games in Paris.”

The U.S. is scheduled to play five exhibition games before departing for France, facing Canada in Vegas on Wednesday night, Australia and Serbia in Abu Dhabi next week, and then South Sudan and Germany in London.

Olympic group play then opens with a game against Serbia on July 28, followed by matchups with South Sudan on July 31 and Puerto Rico on Aug. 3 before the knockout rounds begin. The men’s gold and bronze medal games will be played on Saturday, Aug. 10 at Paris’s Bercy Arena.

The Americans enter the Games as heavy favorites after winning gold each of the last four Summer Olympics and seven of the last eight. Tatum and Holiday both were part of the team that topped the podium in Tokyo in 2020.

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