The NBA on Friday fined the Clippers $50,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule, four days after coach Doc Rivers compared Toronto star Kawhi Leonard to Michael Jordan during a televised interview.
Rivers said Tuesday that Leonard was the “most like Jordan that we’ve seen” during an appearance on an ESPN show previewing the NBA Finals. Leonard and the Raptors lead the Golden State Warriors 1-0 in the series.
Under the league’s anti-tampering rule, the NBA can fine any player or team that “directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce, or persuade” anyone under contract with another team for their services.
“I understand the competing interests of the media hearing a coach’s view about a current NBA player but it’s something that there’s a bright line in this league and you’re not allowed to do it,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Friday, according to the Boston Globe. “Coaches or team executives in those positions need to say I’m not permitted by the league to respond to that question. It’s a balance of interests, I understand that, but he unfortunately crossed a bright line.”
Leonard can decline a player option for next season and become a free agent this summer, and if he does so, the Clippers have long been expected to be one of his most aggressive suitors. On multiple occasions this season, the team, which would have enough cap space to sign Leonard to a maximum-salary contract, sent several representatives, including executives, to watch Leonard and the Raptors play in person.
“There’s a lot of great players,” Rivers said during his ESPN appearance. “LeBron [James] is phenomenal, [Kevin Durant] is phenomenal. Not that [Leonard] 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, if you beat him to the spot, he bumps you off. Then, you add his three-point shooting.”