Kawhi Leonard load management: NBA fines Clippers $50,000 for Doc Rivers' statement on superstar's health
The league didn't punish L.A. for load managing Leonard at first, but are now fining the team after a statement by Doc Rivers
The NBA released a statement on Wednesday condoning the Los Angeles Clippers' decision to rest Kawhi Leonard on national television. However, on Thursday, it released a second statement on the matter, fining the team $50,000 for "statements, including by head coach Doc Rivers, that were inconsistent with Leonard's health."
Wednesday's game was Leonard's second absence of the early season, and both have come on national television. The NBA deemed that Leonard was not considered a healthy player due to being listed on the Clippers' injury report with a knee injury, and with that assessment, he was not healthy enough to play in back-to-back games.
That fact was contradicted in a recent statement by Rivers. According to Rivers, Leonard is actually healthy, but only due to the precautionary steps that the team has taken. Here is Rivers' complete statement, via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
"He feels great. But he feels great because of what we've been doing. 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 statement has proven to be a costly one for the Clippers. The league, using information provided by the Clippers, made the determination that Leonard was injured and that resting him on Wednesday was justified. Rivers' statement, however, gives the impression that Leonard is, in fact, healthy, and that the team was merely acting cautiously. In essence, he is saying that Leonard probably could have played on Wednesday, which contradicts the league's status that sitting him was advisable.
That contradiction makes the league look bad. A number of fans and league partners have voiced their displeasure at players missing nationally televised games by choice. If that is what Leonard did, as Rivers seems to indicate, it not only adds fuel to that fire, but hurts the league's credibility on load-management issues.
There is no telling exactly how healthy or unhealthy Leonard is. If the last two seasons are any indication, he will likely be on some kind of load-management plan for the rest of his career, regardless of injury. If the Clippers plan to keep him on one, though, the NBA will now likely be stricter in enforcing its rules against them should he sit when he is healthy enough to play. The league's broadcasting partners pay billions of dollars for the right to air games with superstars. Even if the league can't force players to play, it can at least discipline teams when they don't. It chose not to do so in this case with Leonard, and now, it looks foolish because of it. The Clippers are paying the price for that.
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