Clippers coach Doc Rivers paid Kawhi Leonard a serious compliment Tuesday when he said the Raptors is “the most like [Michael] Jordan that we’ve seen.”
It was also a very expensive compliment as the NBA slapped the Clippers with a $50,000 fine Friday for violating the league’s anti-tampering policy.
“[Leonard] is the most like Jordan that we’ve seen,” Rivers said on ESPN. “There’s a lot of great players. LeBron is phenomenal, KD 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, and then you add his 3-point shooting.”
“Kawhi is the most like Jordan we’ve seen.”
Doc Rivers has some high praise for Kawhi Leonard. pic.twitter.com/i1R2gR1VrT
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 29, 2019
Rivers’ quote raised plenty of eyebrows because the Clippers are the heavy favorite to sign Leonard when he hits free agency after this incredible 2018-19 run with Toronto. A little flattery can only help, right?
The league reminded teams of the anti-tampering policy in December after LeBron James openly praised Anthony Davis and said it would be “amazing” if he somehow made it onto the Lakers roster.
“Teams should therefore refrain from any conduct — including public statements — that could be viewed as targeting or expressing interest in another team’s player,” the NBA memo read (via ESPN.com).
There’s no denying Rivers’ praise violates every part of that sentence, but he wasn’t necessarily wrong. At the time, Leonard was averaging an eye-popping 31.2 points per game on 50.7 percent shooting in the playoffs. Then, on Thursday, Leonard helped Toronto to a 118-109 win over the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals with 23 points and eight rebounds.
If Rivers’ remarks on national television play a part in the Clippers signing a player like Leonard, one who can will a team the NBA Finals, it was worth every bit of $50,000.