If you have spent any time on Twitter over the past 24-36 hours, you have almost surely been subjected to the never-ending debate about Kawhi Leonard and the NBA’s load management issue. There have been no shortage of takes flying around regarding the Clippers’ decision to hold Kawhi out of their nationally-televised showdown against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night. The Bucks wound up winning an entertaining contest, 129-124.
While plenty of folks were bent out of shape about Leonard missing the game, the NBA initially sided with the Clippers by saying that their reasoning for keeping Kawhi sidelined met the league’s guidelines when it comes to resting players. However, in light of postgame comments made by Doc Rivers after last night’s game, the league announced Thursday that the Clippers have been slapped with a $50,000 fine.
A release issued by the league said, “Following additional review of the LA Clippers not playing Kawhi Leonard in last night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA has confirmed that the team’s decision to sit Leonard for management of an injury was consistent with league rules. The team has reasonably determined that Leonard is suffering from an ongoing injury to the patella tendon in his left knee and has been placed by the team at this time on an injury protocol for back-to-back games.”
“The NBA has fined the Clippers $50,000 for statements, including by head coach Doc Rivers, that were inconsistent with Leonard’s health status.”
After Wednesday’s game, here’s what Rivers said regarding Kawhi’s health: “He feels great. But he feels great because of what we’ve been doing, you know. We’re just going to continue to do it. There’s no concern here. But we want to make sure. I think Kawhi made a statement that he’s never felt better. It’s our job to make sure he stays that way. That’s important. But he played a lot of minutes in the playoffs last year. So it’s not, uh, a health thing really. It is in some ways. We want him to just keep feeling better and getting better.”
So, the league has decided to slap the Clippers with a fine because their head coach essentially said that Kawhi was healthy enough to play last night, which contradicted the league’s previous public statement. Doc obviously didn’t necessarily mean to do that, of course. He’s a thoughtful guy giving a thoughtful answer to a question about one of his players.
The NBA is cool with the Clippers’ decision to hold Leonard out of one half of back-to-back sets because the league believes Kawhi’s knee issue calls for such precautions to be taken. However, because what Doc said basically flew in the face of the NBA’s public stance on the matter, they decided to take action against the team.
In the end, this is a big bag of whatever. There’s no question that Kawhi could’ve played last night if he had to, but they’d rather have him upright and functioning when April, May and (hopefully) June roll around. Kawhi didn’t play both halves of a single back-to-back last year with the Raptors, and there wasn’t a big stink about him sitting out the first half of a back-to-back against the Jazz just last week.
The issue is being put under the microscope this week because he missed a “potential Finals preview” last night against the Bucks. Kawhi has legitimate health concerns when it comes to his leg. The league actually reviews the medical records supplied by the Clippers. It’s not as though they’re just trusting what the team tells them at face value.
This isn’t the first time Doc has been punished for talking about Kawhi, either. Back in May, the Clips were fined another $50,000 when Rivers compared Kawhi to Michael Jordan. Leonard was obviously on the Raptors back then, so the league determined that Doc had violated anti-tampering rules.