The NBA fined the Los Angeles Clippers $50,000, according to ESPN, on Thursday (November 7) for inconsistent remarks by head coach Doc Rivers regarding superstar forward Kawhi Leonard’s health.
The Clippers and Leonard were the subject of much discussion on Wednesday (November 6) prior to a nationally televised game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Leonard missed the game due to “load management” of a chronic knee injury he’s been dealing with off and on for the better part of two seasons.
Prior to Wednesday’s game Rivers said about Kawhi:
“He feels great. But he feels great because of what we’ve been doing. And we are just going to continue to do it. There’s no concern here. But we want to make sure. I think Kawhi made the statement he’s never felt better [entering camp]. It’s our job to make sure he stays that way. And that’s important. He played a lot of minutes in the playoffs last year. And it’s not a health thing. Really it is, in some ways, we want him to just keep feeling better and getting better.”
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That’s where the inconsistency lies.
The NBA was OK with Leonard missing the game, because they deemed him to be unable to play based on the information the Clippers provided in the injury report.
Rivers saying, “it’s not a health thing,” called the validity of the Clippers’ injury report into question.
The league has a mandate that teams be transparent about player injuries and “load management,” mainly to satisfy its broadcast partners who spend billions of dollars to televise the NBA product.
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Rivers has to walk a delicate line between protecting the privacy of his player and complying with the league’s stance.
For his part, Leonard was surprised the league spoke about the specifics of his injury in their statement announcing the Clippers’ fine.
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“I mean, it was shocking, but it doesn’t matter to me,” Leonard said. “I’m not a guy that reads the media anyway. We’re going to manage it the best way we can to keep me healthy, and that’s the most important thing, me being healthy moving forward.”
For Rivers and the Clippers, if they’re hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season, this will be a minor blip on the road to championship success.
“Sometimes you agree with fines, sometimes you don’t,” Rivers said. “It doesn’t matter. That is the one thing I’ve learned.”
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