Kawhi Leonard responds to NBA’s fine of Clippers, medical details released by league
LOS ANGELES – Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers squeezed out a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night, 107-101. The two-time NBA Finals MVP struggled through three quarters before once again coming up huge in the fourth quarter. The attention, however, quickly turned to Leonard, load management, and his ailing knee for the second consecutive night.
Before the game, the NBA announced a $50,000 fine of the Clippers for making contradictory comments to the media about Leonard and how he has repeatedly been deemed “healthy” since the summer, only for the league to step in and essentially say, “wait a second, no he’s not.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA released a statement regarding Leonard and the status of his knee injury. The league, in cooperation with the Clippers and their medical staff, determined that Leonard’s knee is not considered healthy at this time.
“Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league’s resting policy,” said NBA spokesman Mike Bass. “And, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the LA Clippers injury report. The league office, in consultation with the NBA’s director of sports medicine is comfortable with the team medical staff’s determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time.”
Later that night, Rivers seemingly disputed the statement and said Leonard “feels great” due to the program the team has been instituting.
Just under two hours before Rivers was scheduled to speak pregame, the NBA announced the fine and added, “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.”
Doc Rivers, fearful of saying the wrong thing on such a delicate matter, refused to talk about the fine other than to say that the team has said everything they needed to.
Leonard finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in 33 minutes of action a few hours later. Following his postgame treatment, Leonard addressed the release of his medical information.
“It was shocking,” admitted Leonard, appearing mildly irritated. “But it doesn’t matter to me. I’m not a guy that reads the media anyways. We’re going to manage it the best way we can and keep me healthy. The most important thing is me being healthy moving forward.”
Leonard was also asked about the second $50,000 fine the team has been hit with in six months for comments Doc Rivers made about him. The first was comparing Leonard to Jordan. The second came Wednesday night when Rivers said the two-time Finals MVP was healthy after the league admitted he wasn’t.
“For me, I’m on Doc’s side,” Leonard responded. “I’m a Clipper and he is my coach. It’s just disappointing. It feels like they want players to play if they are not ready. It is what it is. I don’t read into it. I have to do what is going to make me healthy and help the team be successful. That is me being able to play basketball games for us.”
As mentioned earlier, the Clippers could’ve avoided this issue entirely by, from the start, admitting that Kawhi Leonard was not 100%, but that they would take it day by day with him throughout the season. Of course, there is the other issue in that Leonard is a very private person, as displayed by his free agency.
Right now, Leonard says the doctors are against him playing in back-to-back sets, regardless of how much time he has off before and after games.
“No, that’s not what the doctors are prescribing right now,” Leonard said regarding his ability to play back-to-backs right now if he had to. “That’s all I can say about it. We’re going to manage it and just keep moving forward.”
If Leonard’s doctors are recommending against playing in both halves of a back-to-back set, that means he’ll miss at least one game in the next 11 sets. Here’s the remaining back-to-back schedule, via Jovan Buha of The Athletic.
Unfortunately for Leonard and the Clippers, this situation as well as the buzz surrounding it is not going away anytime soon. The Clippers have another back-to-back set in less than a week, and 10 more sets throughout the five remaining months of the season.