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Clippers fined $50,000 for violating anti-tampering rules when Doc Rivers commented on Kawhi Leonard

Doc Rivers, Kawhi Leonard, Raptors, Clippers

The NBA announced on Friday that the L.A. Clippers have been fined $50,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule. Head coach Doc Rivers made a guest appearance on Stephen A. Smith’s NBA Finals preview show, where he was asked about both the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors and made comments about Kawhi Leonard.

Rivers touched on a number of things, and said Leonard was the closest thing to Michael Jordan that we’ve ever seen. That is the likely quote that set the NBA off and resulted in a fine.

“He’s the most like Jordan that we’ve seen,” said Rivers about the impending free agent. “Not that he is Jordan or anything like that, but he’s the most like him. Big hands, post-game, can finish, great leaper, great defender, in between game.”

The anti-tampering rule appears to be incredibly inconsistent, however. What justifies a fine nowadays other than the obvious?

If the NBA were clear and consistent with this rule, there would be no arguments whatsoever. The thing is, it’s not clear or consistent enough.

Very clearly, the Clippers are after Kawhi Leonard. If you don’t know that by now, you might’ve been living under a rock. Technically in his offseason, Rivers made comments about a player his team plans to pursue, which is understandably fineable according to the CBA.

Like many other coaches, however, Doc Rivers made a TV appearance as an analyst after his team’s season came to a close. It makes for an interesting show with special guests. ESPN, the television network most affiliated with the NBA, invited coach Rivers onto Smith’s Finals preview show. It was announced in advance, and there weren’t any reports of pushback or concern from the league about Rivers’ appearance.

Just moments before touching on Leonard, Rivers said Kevin Durant is a, “phenomenal” player. That was okay.

Rivers also made comments about another impending free agent in Warriors’ star Klay Thompson. He went as far as to say Thompson is a top-15 player in the league. That was also okay.

“Klay deserved to be on that team,” said Rivers. “Make no mistake about it. I keep saying it’s that third guy. The Warriors win for one reason, number one, but they have cooperation. When you have cooperation with the players and the coach and they buy in…

“That hurts Klay in some ways because he doesn’t have the ball as much, he doesn’t get as many shots, but he is a great player and he’s one of the top 15 player in the league.”

Rivers also spoke very highly of Warriors’ star Stephen Curry. He praised him, going as far as to say that a lot of people still don’t give him enough credit for how good he is and the changes he made to make the Warriors great. That was okay as well.

Back in June of 2018, then-Lakers President Magic Johnson said he saw similarities between Bucks’ star Giannis Antetokounmpo and his own game. He even added that he’ll bring Milwaukee a championship one day and he was glad Giannis was starting in the All-Star Game. At the time, Antetokounmpo was about three years from hitting free agency. The NBA fined the Lakers $50,000 for these comments made by Johnson.

“Oh yeah,” Johnson told ESPN. “With his ball-handling skills and his passing ability. He plays above the rim; I never could do that. But in his understanding of the game, his basketball IQ, his creativity of shots for his teammates … that’s where we [have the] same thing. Can bring it down, make a pass, make a play.

“I’m just happy he’s starting in the All-Star Game because he deserves that. And he’s going to be like an MVP, a champion. This dude, he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”

At the end of the day, the league doesn’t want any tampering (at least not publicly), and they’ll come down hard on teams if anything that is found in public. There just needs to be a clearer and more consistent rule for it. If no coaches or front office personnel are allowed to talk publicly about a player under contract outright, then that’s okay. That rule just needs to be made clear is all.