Kawhi Leonard withdrew from consideration for the U.S. basketball team's roster for the FIFA World Cup, saying he's learned that he needs to take a break after watching the struggles of Spurs teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili during the regular season after they played through last summer for their national teams.
Leonard, who was named the MVP in the Spurs' NBA Finals victory over the Miami Heat, has played into late June each of the past two seasons because of San Antonio's back-to-back Finals trips.
"I went through those two seasons going down to June 20," Leonard told the San Antonio Express-News. "That's tough on your body to keep going. I'm just learning from Tony and Manu Ginobili, just going into that offseason and playing so hard and then coming back and their bodies not feeling the same and then being tired for the regular season. So I'm just learning from them."
Parker, 32, was shut down for two weeks during the 2013-14 season by coach Gregg Popovich, who said the All-Star point guard was drained physically after playing with the French national team that won last year's Eurobasket title last summer following the Spurs' trip to the 2013 NBA Finals.
Ginobili, 36, suffered a stress fracture in his right leg during the Spurs' Finals victory but remains hopeful he will play for Argentina at the World Cup.
The 23-year-old Leonard will still be in the pool of players considered to make up Team USA's 2016 Olympic roster. Still, he called the decision to remove himself from the pool for the World Cup "a very difficult decision."
"I want to go out and compete [with] the guys from these other countries, but I need the time to heal and just rest my body from the long season," he told the newspaper.