The NBA has levied a $50,000 fine against Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers for saying nice things about Kawhi Leonard on ESPN’s NBA Finals preview special earlier this week. Technically, it’s for violating the league’s anti-tampering rules.
Here’s the offending comments, which, on their face, seem extremely tame.
Rivers praised Leonard by saying he’s the most Michael Jordan-like player we’ve seen.
“Big hands,” he said. “Post game. Can finish. Great leaper. Great defender. In-between game. If you beat him to the spot, bumps you off. Then you add his 3-point shooting. I never get into who’s the best player. Magic is the best player, Michael Jordan is the best player, LeBron. But it’s that same group.”
The NBA simply can’t have that. Next thing you know, Leonard hears it and he decides to join the Clippers.
And, look, there do need to be some rules in place so it’s not an open-season free-for-all. But if Magic Johnson can get get fined the same amount for telling ESPN Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to win a title in Milwaukee, there’s little upside for current NBA coaches to share their thoughts with the media — and definitely while seated on set as a guest analyst.
Negotiating that line of adding commentary without breaking the rules seems extremely difficult and that the risk isn’t worth the reward.
It’s not as if losing a Doc Rivers or Magic Johnson or insert-whichever-eliminated coach here is going to make or break the viewing experience. It just makes booking a bit more difficult for the television people.