Kawhi Leonard’s suspicious “injury” history continues to get the attention of the NBA. While the Los Angeles Clippers superstar hasn’t missed significant time with an actual injury in a couple of seasons — when he missed all but nine games as a member of the San Antonio Spurs — he has sat a number of games the past two years because of load management, which is a franchise’s way of protecting a star player from, you know, doing his job and (maybe) getting hurt.
Given the debate of this whole load management thing — which has gotten called out from people like Michael Jordan and Jalen Rose — it’s only natural for things to get real sensitive when the NBA gets involved with how teams are managing superstars. Obviously, the league wants the best players in every game for fans and revenue, among other things, but there’s no definitive way to enforce a guy plays if he claims to have a minor injury.
Such was the case with Kawhi Leonard the other day, when the Clips sat him against reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, causing a ton of reactions and questions surrounding the facts about the severity of a Leonard injury. And, while the league first dismissed any wrongdoing, the Clippers ended up getting fined a whopping $50,000 by the NBA because head coach Doc Rivers revealed the truth: Kawhi Leonard wasn’t actually injured, but the team wanted to monitor his minutes.
Here’s what Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweeted about the hefty fine, giving details about what happened.
Man, talk about a major slap in the face for being honest, right? Had Doc Rivers just lied about Kawhi Leonard when asked about why the superstar wasn’t in the lineup the other night, he would’ve saved his team $50,000 big ones — the same amount of money he cost the team before the summer for tampering. Instead, he was candid about why they were keeping Leonard on the sideline, and, because there wasn’t a “doctor’s note,” so to speak, the Clippers got slapped on the wrist.
This is such a dumb and unnecessary rule, but, hey, there’s no real way of monitoring things unless someone says or does something like Rivers did — which admitted Kawhi Leonard wasn’t hurt. And, for his part, Leonard has been irked by all this, saying after the team’s win over the Portland Trail Blazers last night that it was “shocking” that the league revealed the status of his so-called injury.
“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.”
What a big mess. There’s no right or wrong answer or strategy here, so, until there is, teams will probably just keep getting hit with mega fines for simply wanting to give a player the night off.