Clippers Fined $50,000 for Doc Rivers Comparing Kawhi Leonard to Michael Jordan

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2019

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers calls a play during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Indianapolis. Indiana won 116-92. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers were fined $50,000 by the NBA after head coach Doc Rivers made public comments Tuesday comparing Toronto Raptors superstar forward Kawhi Leonard to Michael Jordan.

Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic on Friday reported the fine, which was levied under the league's anti-tampering rule.

gary washburn @GwashburnGlobe

Adam Silver didn't have much sympathy for Doc Rivers regarding his #50K fine for talking about impending free agent Kawhi Leonard on ESPN. #NBAFinals https://t.co/FF3uA14UxE

Though comparing any current player to MJ immediately sparks debate, Rivers' remarks generated additional attention because the Clippers are expected to make a serious push to sign Leonard if he declines his player option for 2019-20 and becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.


"Kawhi is the most like Jordan we've seen." Doc Rivers has some high praise for Kawhi Leonard. https://t.co/i1R2gR1VrT

In early May, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported it seemed like the Clips would be the only team the 27-year-old Los Angeles area native would consider leaving the Raptors to join, even if he decided to accept meetings with other possible suitors in the offseason.

Josh Lewenberg @JLew1050

The Raptors have reached out to the league multiple times this season when they've felt the Clippers have crossed a line in their not-so-subtle pursuit of Leonard, I'm told. Would imagine today's $50K anti-tampering fine had as much to do with those incidents as Doc's comments

The NBA has made a concerted effort to enforce tampering rules in recent years.

Most notably, the Los Angeles Lakers were fined $500,000 in August 2017 for tampering with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George.

In December, the league office sent a memo to all 30 teams to remind front offices about the guidelines and noted players' comments could also fall under the umbrella of tampering:

"In addition, recent attention has been paid to the issue of public comments by players. Generally speaking, it is not tampering when a player makes a comment about his interest in playing with another team's player. However, if there are other aggravating factors—such as sustained public recruiting or evidence that the player making such a comment is coordinating with his team—then there may be a basis for a tampering violation."

Meanwhile, Leonard, in his typically low-key fashion, has shrugged off any questions about his future throughout the season.

He helped the Raptors score a 118-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Thursday night.