Kawhi Leonard played for the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, rocking Buffalo Braves throwback uniforms in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Leonard was dominant in the fourth quarter despite concerns about his knee. He scored 27 points and 13 rebounds in the comeback win, erasing any concerns about his health impacting the team in a negative way.
But Leonard also spoke out about the fine his team earned over his knee before the game. The Clippers were fined $50,000 before the game after quotes from Doc Rivers were deemed “inconsistent” with Leonard’s actual health. The load management issue with Leonard has been a considerable topic over the last two seasons, and according to ESPN, after the game Leonard called the fine “shocking” and defended his coach.
“I mean it was shocking, but it doesn’t matter to me,” Leonard said when asked what he thought about the NBA revealing details about his injury. “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.”
The NBA initially cleared Los Angeles’ plans for Leonard but then punished the team when Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Leonard “feels great.” Rivers was trying to make a point that the plan the team has in place has kept Leonard healthy, but the league deemed that his quotes contradicted what they were told about the star forward’s health.
Leonard made it clear that he doesn’t care what people are saying, and defended Rivers on Thursday night.
“For me, I’m on his side, you know what I mean?” Leonard said when asked about the league fining the Clippers twice over Rivers’ remarks about him. “I’m a Clipper, he’s my coach. That’s just disappointing. It feels like they want players to play if they’re not ready.
“It is what it is. Like I said, I don’t read into it. I got to do what makes me healthy and is going to help the team be successful and that’s me being able to play basketball games for us.”
Leonard is being gently critical of the NBA, which is taking cues from its broadcast partners in trying to make sure big stars play prime-time games. Leonard is very nicely saying that the league is more concerned about that than they are player safety, which is a concern that’s tough to weigh if you don’t know the particulars of Leonard’s health. What happened here, though, is that Rivers said something that either wasn’t true, or the Clippers’ injury report was inaccurate. Either way, the NBA wasn’t happy, and it’s likely Rivers will be more careful when talking to reporters about Leonard’s status.