In June, former San Antonio Spurs legend Bruce Bowen was highly critical of Kawhi Leonard’s desire to be traded out of San Antonio. Leonard reportedly wanted to end up in Los Angeles, and despite that not happening it seems that Bowen won’t get work in LA, either.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday that Bowen, who had served as a game analyst with Fox Sports West on Los Angeles Clippers games, won’t return to that role this fall. Wojnarowski tied that decision directly to his comments about Leonard, pointing out that the franchise had planned to bring Bowen back before he asked “are you kidding me?” in a screed against Leonard and his trade request earlier in the year.
The sides were expected to move forward on a new deal before Bowen’s public comments on Leonard, sources said. Bowen, a former NBA analyst with ESPN, declined comment when reached on Monday.
The decision to part ways with Bowen — a three-time NBA champion with the Spurs who had his No. 12 jersey retired — speaks to the high-stakes repercussions surrounding the NBA’s star-studded 2019 free-agency class. For the Clippers, eliminating Bowen becomes a clear message about how it plans to protect star players within the organization.
If you’re not catching what Woj is implying here, the Clippers are still very much invested in luring Leonard to Los Angeles when he hits free agency next summer. And having Bowen around after being critical of Leonard would be a bit awkward, and possibly temper Leonard’s interest in the team.
As Wojnarowski notes, teams have a lot of input in who regional sports networks hire to do their broadcasts, and it seems the Clippers weren’t happy with what Bowen said about Leonard’s request for a trade. According to Wojnarowski, the interest between Leonard and the Clippers is mutual, and so Bowen won’t be sticking around to potentially muck that up next summer.
Before the Toronto Raptors traded with San Antonio for Leonard in July, the Clippers tried to acquire him and plan to be aggressive suitors for Leonard in 2019 free agency. Leonard is primarily interested in signing with the Lakers or Clippers in July, league sources tell ESPN.
Speaking more broadly, this is the problem with hiring former players with strong ties to an organization to serve in a critical or highly visible role. While their intimate insight into how a team operates or how the game is played can be useful on a broadcast, the commentary isn’t exactly objective. There are still friends and feelings that can get in the way of doing the job, or even keeping the job if you say the wrong thing.
Broadcasters switch gigs all the time, though, and Bowen is certainly in no danger of never working in the industry. He just might have trouble finding a home with a club that happens to have a lot of cap space available to spend next summer.