NBA fines Clippers $50K for tampering after Doc Rivers compared Kawhi Leonard to Michael Jordan

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Doc Rivers drew scorn from the NBA after lavishing public praise on pending free agent <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4896/" data-ylk="slk:Kawhi Leonard">Kawhi Leonard</a>. (Getty)
Doc Rivers drew scorn from the NBA after lavishing public praise on pending free agent Kawhi Leonard. (Getty)

The NBA has fined the Los Angeles Clippers $50,000 for tampering after Doc Rivers made public comments on Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard on a recent ESPN appearance.

During an appearance on an NBA Finals preview special on ESPN Tuesday, Rivers lavished praised on Leonard, going as far as to compare him to Michael Jordan.

High praise for Leonard

“He is the most like Jordan that we’ve seen,” Rivers said. “There’s a lot of great players. LeBron is phenomenal. KD is phenomenal.

“Not that he’s 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. And then you add his 3-point shooting.”

Clippers expected to pursue Leonard in free agency

While Leonard is in the midst of the NBA Finals, coming off a Game 1 win over the Golden State Warriors, he will be a free agent when the season ends.

It’s no secret that the Clippers — who have maneuvered to create salary cap space for the summer’s blockbuster free agent class —are interested in pursuing Leonard, a Southern California native.

Caesar’s Palace recently laid odds on Leonard’s free agent landing spot, naming the Clippers as -200 favorites to land the prized free agent. The Raptors had the next best odds at +125 with the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers listed behind them.

Adam Silver: Rivers crossed ‘a bright line’

NBA commissioner Adam Sliver spoke with The Crossover about the fine and noted that River was obligated by NBA rules to decline a question like the one he answered on the ESPN set.

“I understand the competing interest of the media in hearing a coach’s view about a current NBA player,” Silver said. “But it’s something where there’s a bright line in this league and you’re not allowed to do it.

“It’s a balance of interests. I understand that. But he unfortunately crossed a bright line.”

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