The Los Angeles Clippers are entering a pivotal postseason, as questions about their future could be answered based on how they perform in the coming weeks, and possibly months. A grueling first-round matchup versus Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks only adds to the pressure burdening this franchise.

Though, owner Steve Ballmer is going to have to dedicate an iota of his attention to the fine his team is being hit with for violating rules prior to its regular season finale against the Houston Rockets.

“The NBA has fined the Clippers for $25,000 for violating injury reporting rules on April 14 when failing to disclose status of Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell,” Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported on Friday.

The billionaire can probably find the necessary funds in between the cushions of his couch, so there is unlikely to be any extra stress with the 2024 NBA Playoffs set to begin for his team on Sunday afternoon. Even so, this action, while seemingly minimal, shows that the league is focused on deterring improper injury management practices and ending load management.

Neither George, Westbrook nor Powell were on the injury report before opening tip-off, but they were all held out of the meaningless game. Resting top players for the postseason obviously has its merits, especially for a squad like the Clippers, but the rules must be followed. However, this type of fine will gives LA little incentive to be meticulous next time.

This topic has sparked more chatter this season, with Joel Embiid being at the center of it on more than one occasion.

NBA teams pull a fast one sometimes

The Philadelphia 76ers were fined $75,000 for making the 2022-23 MVP a late scratch, despite him not showing up on the injury report before a January game versus the Denver Nuggets. They got slapped with another penalty in April, this time for $100,000, when Embiid made his long-awaited return in a showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even though Philly originally ruled him out, he scored 24 points in 29 minutes.

That specific move put OKC had a huge disadvantage in terms of its game plan. The team was in a heated race for the No. 1 seed in the West, which they narrowly clinched on the last day of the season, so a firm response was needed. It will be interesting to see if the NBA is able to curtail these violations going into the 2024-25 campaign, and beyond.

The Clippers will pay their fine and immediately return their focus to the Mavericks, in what might be the best series in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs.

Clippers hope they are fresh enough to outlast the Mavericks

os Angeles Clippers forward Paul George (13, left) and forward Kawhi Leonard (2, center) and guard James Harden (1, right) watch the game from the bench during the third quarter against the Utah Jazz at Arena.
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Ideally, the extra rest that Los Angeles' core received will have the team feeling fully energized for its battle with No. 5 Dallas. As per usual, the health of Kawhi Leonard is making headlines. The two-time NBA Finals MVP managed to stay on the court for much of the season before missing the final eight games of the regular season with a knee injury.

Leonard is questionable for Game 1, potentially putting the onus on Paul George, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Norman Powell to carry the offense. Their track records speak for themselves, but judging by how the Mavericks have played since March 7, it will presumably take a collective effort to reach the Western Conference Semifinals.

Steve Ballmer has gone all in on this franchise, investing a ton in the present and future. Despite being a No. 4 seed, the only acceptable result for this group of future Hall of Famers and highly effective role players is to advance to the conference finals. With health and age being concerns, and the uncertain contract status of George and Harden looming large, achieving success is a must.

Thus, one can understand why the Clippers decided to prioritize health at the end of the season. The NBA is not accepting excuses at this time, however. Tip-off is Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.