The NBA fined the Los Angeles Clippers $50,000 on Thursday for comments made about Kawhi Leonard and his injury status.
On Wednesday, the league said it accepted the Clippers plan to sit Leonard, who was listed on the injury report with an ailing knee, in the first of back-to-back games. He did not play in a 129-124 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks – a game that was nationally televised by ESPN.
But a remark later made by coach Doc Rivers caught the attention of the NBA.
“I think Kawhi made a statement that he’s never felt better. It’s our job to make sure he stays that way. That’s important. But he played a lot of minutes in the playoffs last year,” Rivers said. “So, it’s not, uh, a health thing really. It is in some ways. We want him to just keep feeling better and getting better.”
In a statement announcing the fine on Thursday, the league said it continued to believe that Leonard has an injury but questioned Rivers’ remarks.
“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 statement read. “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.”
The Clippers host the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night on TNT, and Leonard is expected to play. The forward, who signed as a free agent with the Clippers in the offseason, has yet to play both games of a back-to-back this season and last played in a set in April 2017, when he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
Leonard played in just nine games for the Spurs in 2017-18 due to a quadriceps injury and played in just 60 of 82 regular-season games for the Toronto Raptors last season.