NBA Warns Kawhi Leonard, Other Players in Philippines

By John Follett

Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots against the Miami Heat in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard and a group of his fellow stars were peacefully taking in the Philippines culture when Tuesday, the NBA crashed their party.

In response to their planned exhibition against the Philippines National Team, the NBA threatened to fine players for taking part in a contest hosted by organizers who did not obtain league approval. According to reports, these organizers agreed with attending NBA players to short scrimmages and games of “H-O-R-S-E,”  in exchange for more than $150K. These contests were planned as part of a two-day event in Manila that would prepare the Philippines National Team for the upcoming FIBA World Cup tournament.

Players involved include:  Blake Griffin, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, Brandon Jennings and Tyson Chandler.  

One could understand why the NBA would protect investments by banning these players from exhibitions; however, several other players are or have taken part in numerous charity games and pro-am tournaments all across the United States and Europe. Why the Manila exhibition caught the ire of the NBA is unknown but for now, Kawhi Leonard and company are restricted to basketball clinics and public appearances.

Leonard gave a press conference on Monday, citing Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland as an inspiration for the trip.  Engelland played for the San Miguel Beerman of the Philippines Basketball Association from 1984 to 1986. As a naturalized citizen, Engelland was also a member of the 1985 Philippines National Team who captured the Jones Cup title, an annual, international tournament founded in 1975.