NBA fines Clippers coach Doc Rivers $50k for 'luring' Kawhi Leonard
Li Xiang
Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was fined 50,000 U.S. dollars by the NBA for praising Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors on ESPN's NBA Finals preview show.
"He (Leonard) is the most like Jordan that we've seen. Like, there's a lot of great players. LeBron (James) is phenomenal. KD (Kevin Durant) is phenomenal. But he is the most like him," said Rivers on Tuesday.
The NBA apparently did not like Rivers' comments and ruled them as a violation of the league's anti-tampering rules.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver /VCG Photo

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver /VCG Photo

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver explained the league's decision: "I would just say Doc's been at this a long time. It's not a fun part of my job ever fining anyone. And I understand the competing interest of the media in hearing a coach's view about a current NBA player but it's something where there's a bright line in this league and you're not allowed to do it. Head coaches or team executives in those positions need to say, ‘I'm not permitted by the league to respond to that question.' And it's a balance of interest, I understand that, but he unfortunately crossed a bright line."
This was far from the first time that a member of a team's management staff was fined for saying nice things about a player, and 50,000 was not an eye-catching number either. Two years ago, when Magic Johnson worked as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, he was fined 500,000 U.S. dollars for calling Paul George a great player.
The two cases had one thing in common: they were both between a star player and the team that wanted to sign him. Though Leonard's contract with the Raptors will come due in the summer of 2020, he can and probably will opt out of the final year of his contract this summer to become a free agent.
Will Kawhi Leonard stay with the Toronto Raptors after this season? /VCG Photo

Will Kawhi Leonard stay with the Toronto Raptors after this season? /VCG Photo

During last summer's soap opera with his former team, the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard and his uncle made it clear that he wanted to play in Los Angeles. Compared with the Lakers, which are a mess, the Clippers have a healthier franchise and can make Leonard their No.1 player immediately instead of putting him behind LeBron James.
That should help you understand why both the league and the Raptors are so sensitive about Rivers' comments. According to Josh Lewenberg of The Sports Network, the Raptors went to the league several times about the Clippers luring Leonard, which led to Rivers being fined.
Since entering the NBA in 1995, Toronto has always had difficulty keeping star players – Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh – let alone attracting them to join. Having finally introduced Leonard, who helped the team enter their first NBA Finals, Toronto definitely doesn't want to lose him, or see him distracted when the franchise is hopeful of winning its first NBA Championship.