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Kawhi Leonard planning to reunite with Gregg Popovich for Tokyo Olympics

Jason Owens
·2 min read
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They didn't part on the best of terms after a winning a championship together with the San Antonio Spurs.

But Kawhi Leonard's not letting bygones keep him from a shot at Olympic gold. The Los Angeles Clippers forward told reporters on Sunday that he's planning to play for Team USA and head coach Gregg Popovich at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

That is if everything lines up.

"If I feel up to it and feel ready to go around that time, then I'm going to play," Leonard said ahead of Sunday's NBA All-Star Game, per the Associated Press.

If available, the two-time NBA Finals MVP is a virtual lock to make the team out of a pool of 60 players USA Basketball intends to choose from. Leonard, like other players on NBA title contenders, could face a tight scheduling squeeze.

Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers after the basketball game at Staples Center on October 31, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kawhi Leonard is ready to reunite with Gregg Popovich. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Will Olympics go on as scheduled?

The Tokyo Olympics are slated to start on July 23. Team USA is scheduled to start training camp on July 1 and play France on July 25. A potential Game 7 of the NBA Finals would take place on July 22.

Of course, this all depends on the Olympics starting on schedule amid continuing COVID-19 uncertainties. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Organizers have repeatedly insisted that the Games will go on as planned this summer after being postponed from 2020 amid the onset of the pandemic.

Tumultuous ending to championship relationship

Regardless, Leonard's ready to play for his old coach. Leonard played his first seven NBA seasons with Popovich's Spurs, making two NBA Finals and winning a championship in 2014. Leonard was named Finals MVP in the victory over the Miami Heat.

Leonard forced a trade from the Spurs to the Toronto Raptors in 2018 amid ongoing disagreements with the team over how to manage a quadriceps injury. He played just nine games during his final season in San Antonio and remained sidelined after being medically cleared by team doctors.

Popovich repeatedly faced questions about Leonard during that 2017-18 campaign and rarely had clear answers about his status amid reports of discord. After the trade, Leonard and Popovich traded barbs in the media over Popovich's assessment of Leonard's leadership qualities.

But the two shared what appeared to be a genuinely cordial moment during Leonard's return to San Antonio with the Raptors in 2019. They have repeatedly met to chat in postgame situations since. Whatever lingering tensions remain — if there are any — certainly aren't enough to keep the champions from reuniting with a chance to win Olympic gold.

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