NBA fines Clippers $50,000 because Doc Rivers said Kawhi Leonard is healthy

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Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice load management.

The NBA has fined the Clippers $50,000 for “statements, including by head coach Doc Rivers, that were inconsistent with Leonard’s health status.” Meaning Rivers got the Clippers fined for having Leonard’s back and saying his player was healthy and daring to rest to stay healthy.

It’s a long winding road to follow the NBA’s logic on this one, but here we go:

The Clippers are resting Kawhi Leonard on half of back-to-back games this season, because that’s what Leonard wants and because we saw in Toronto last June what happens when you have a rested and healthy Leonard in the playoffs. This should be a surprise to absolutely nobody.

However, to do that and comply with league rules — especially for a nationally televised game like Wednesday night against the Bucks — the Clippers need to prove Leonard is not healthy enough to play both games. (For the record, both games in this back-to-back are nationally televised.) So, the Clippers doctors reported to the league office that Leonard has a knee issue — which he does. We saw it flair up during the playoffs last year, it’s partially him compensating for the quad tendon issue in his other leg. It’s exactly the kind of thing the Clippers and Leonard want to manage so it doesn’t become worse.

The league went public — in the face of some backlash about Leonard sitting out — and backed the Clippers’ doctors’ official position that Leonard is not healthy enough to play in back-to-backs.  Then Doc Rivers went and said this, trying to support Leonard (who doesn’t like his injury issues being aired publicly):

That, however, contradicted the league. Here is the full statement from the NBA.

“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 rules.  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.

“The NBA has fined the Clippers $50,000 for statements, including by head coach Doc Rivers, that were inconsistent with Leonard’s health status.”

Just a few thoughts here:

• The NBA scheduled the Clippers with back-to-back nationally televised games — we all could have looked at the schedule before the season and known Leonard would sit this game out. (From the Clippers perspective, the Portland game against a conference rival and will matter more for seeding and potential tiebreakers, so that is the more important game and the one they would have Leonard play.) Don’t want him to sit, don’t schedule these back-to-backs.

• Rivers would say this every time and the Clippers would pay the fine every time just to show Leonard they have his back.

• Is Leonard healthy enough to play a back-to-back? If this were the playoffs he would go, but this early in the season why would the Clippers not keep his chronic issues at bay with some rest? Is this preventative maintenance? Absolutely. Is there anything wrong with that? No. Not if the Clippers are thinking title.

• As my friend Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk Tweeted, Steve Ballmer is worth $50 billion, every time he checks the stock market on his phone his net worth has gone up or down more than $50,000. He doesn’t blink at this kind of fine.