Kawhi Leonard and the L.A. Clippers pulled out a win over the Trail Blazers on Thursday, but it didn't come without controversy.
Ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Bucks, the NBA released a statement regarding Leonard and the status of his knee injury, contradicting the statement previously made by head coach Doc Rivers.
Before the match against Portland, the league 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. The league believes Kawhi is still dealing with the aftermath of his injury.
“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.”
Leonard, who finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in 33 minutes of action, spoke on the matter after game, sounding quite irritated about the whole situation.
“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.”
He also stood up for his coach in the process.
“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.”
No doubt, this whole thing is a bit confusing. While Kawhi is healthy enough to dominate games without a minutes restriction, the league has deemed him unfit to play two nights in a row.
For now, "load management" will continue to be apart of Kawhi's time with the Clippers until he feels safe enough to stop skipping games. Meanwhile, the league wants to make sure to let everyone know that there is a reason for his no-shows. In their eyes, he's just not ready.