If an NBA player is feeling great, it’s okay to say so. If he’s not, however, then the league doesn’t want teams to sugarcoat the real story. That’s the message sent loud and clear to the LA Clippers, and the rest of the teams, by the NBA by way of a $50,000 fine against the Clippers for comments made recently by head coach Doc Rivers.
Clippers Feeling Not So Fine
Clippers forward — or guard, depending on the competition — Kawhi Leonard has had to deal with some injuries in the NBA this season, including one that kept him out of this past Wednesday’s contest against the Milwaukee Bucks. Before the game, Rivers was asked about the All-Star player and his health, and he responded by saying that Leonard was feeling “great.”
The fact that he was feeling great but was still out of the game apparently caused confusion among the upper ranks of the NBA. Those individuals agreed that the Clippers were within their rights to keep Leonard out of the game for “load management,” but dinged the team for making statements that were inconsistent with his actual health. The head-scratching on the decision and the league’s logic continues.
In a press statement from yesterday, the NBA explained (better read, tried to explain) their position, stating, “Following additional review of the LA Clippers not playing Kawhi Leonard in last night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA has confirmed that the team’s decision to sit Leonard for management of an injury was consistent with league rules. 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.”
It’s easy to imagine a lot of eyes suddenly rolling when the Clippers received word of the fine, and the same happening by anyone hearing about the absurd decision. Leonard stands by his coach, though, saying, “He’s my coach, and I’m on his side. I’m not a doctor, but we’re going to do what’s best for me to be healthy so I can play basketball games. I can’t read too much into it.”
It’s possible for an athlete to “feel great” and not yet be ready to get back in the game. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees felt great after surgery on the thumb of his throwing hand, but he still had to sit out for several weeks until everyone felt comfortable that the injury had healed enough for him to be on the turf.
Rivers was obviously disappointed with the fine and says, defeatedly, “Sometimes you agree with fines, sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t matter. That is the one thing I’ve learned.”
What this fine for the Clippers indicates is the fact that there is a growing sentiment that league individuals are going to have to watch every single word they say, no matter where they are or to whom they’re speaking. Leonard should have a certain degree of privacy regarding his health, especially if he’s going to be on the bench (if he’s not in the lineup, the oddsmakers won’t include him), but Rivers believes the league is possibly becoming too strict. When asked about whether or not that right to privacy or the league’s desire to have more information is more important, he stated, “I’m scared to answer. That’s my answer. I just won’t answer.”
It now appears that questions about players’ health will have to be added to the taboo list in press conferences, seemingly leading to the opposite goal the league had expected. Instead of having a more complete picture of a particular game’s outlook, oddsmakers might now have less.