The Clippers were fined $50,000 by the NBA for comments made by head coach Doc Rivers on an ESPN NBA Finals pre-show. Rivers spoke about Kawhi Leonard as part of the preview for the Finals, calling him the closest thing to Michael Jordan we’ve seen.
The Los Angeles Clippers have been fined $50,000 by NBA for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule when Doc Rivers publicly commented on Kawhi Leonard.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 31, 2019
It’s quite funny that Rivers, though technically the entire team, was fined for tampering while on the same panel as Magic Johnson, who received three tampering fines/warnings as President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Generally, coaches have a higher bar to clear when it comes to tampering because they have to comment on opposing players while giving pre- and post-game press conferences about their opponents. It’s impossible to talk about other teams without discussing the individual players.
When ESPN invited Rivers to be part of a discussion about the Finals, there had to have been an understanding that he would have to talk about Leonard, and/or other free-agent target Kevin Durant. There’s no way to analyze this series without acknowledging those two superstars, though Rivers could have declined to comment about those players in particularly in order to be as judicious as possible.
"Kawhi is the most like Jordan we've seen."— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 29, 2019
Doc Rivers has some high praise for Kawhi Leonard. pic.twitter.com/i1R2gR1VrT
Rivers’ comments didn’t specifically address Leonard’s contract status or his connection to the Clippers, but they caused a bit of a stir. The NBA has been active in policing tampering throughout this season due to the nature of the star-studded free-agent class, so this is relatively in line with how they’ve handled similar situations in the recent past. Nevertheless, it seems like the potential for tampering should have been brought up ahead of Rivers’ appearance to avoid circumstances like this in the future.