Kawhi Leonard missed Wednesday’s nationally televised game against the Milwaukee Bucks for load management purposes and, on cue, the takes started flying from every angle. Despite the fact that the Clippers cleared the absence with the NBA prior game time, the choice was controversial and many disagree with the decision to manage his deployment, even after it worked in spectacular fashion for the Toronto Raptors just last season.
Less than 24 hours later, an even stranger confluence of events occurred, with the Clippers receiving a $50,000 fine from the NBA, all while the league acknowledged that Leonard’s absence was “consistent with league results.” For the full view, the NBA released the following announcement on Thursday evening.
“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 results. 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.”
As noted previously, the first part of the statement seems to be consistent with their messaging from before tip-off on Wednesday but there was a pivot coming. The statement continued by saying “the NBA has fined the Clippers $50,000 for statements, including by head coach Doc Rivers, that were inconsistent with Leonard’s health status.”
In short, the Clippers complied with the league’s rules but public comments, especially from Doc Rivers, said the quiet part out loud. For further clarity, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski passed along Rivers’ quotes, with the addendum that the NBA essentially decided Rivers was indicating that Leonard is, in fact, healthy.
The NBA accepts the Clippers medical determination that Kawhi Leonard is injured. It fined the team for Rivers essentially saying publicly that Leonard is healthy. https://t.co/tS81wqt7xl
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 7, 2019
$50,000 is a drop in the bucket for the Clippers, making the actual impact of the fine negligible. Still, this is an exceptionally strange set of circumstances and it is just bizarre for the NBA to be fining a team while also standing by them for the decision-making process itself. Wojnarowski later passed along even more information, with an intriguing viewpoint into the organizational stance.
Here's a view of what happened: Kawhi Leonard is private. He doesn't want his injury information public. Only, it has to be public for the Clippers to escape league punishment on violating resting rules. Doc Rivers was trying to be supportive of Leonard. They'll take the fine.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 8, 2019
Leonard will probably continue resting on back-to-backs this season, and the entire conversation will happen again. This might be the peak of strangeness, though, and Steve Ballmer has to cut a $50,000 check for it.