In a grotesque overreaction, the Clippers cut ties with Bruce Bowen.
Bowen is a San Antonio Spur lifer who the Clippers hired as a color analyst last summer. In his playing days, Bowen was often called a dirty player. His gritty defensive aura netted him three rings before he retired in 2009. He worked for ESPN and as recently as four months ago, the Clippers.
In the fall of 2017, the Clippers finally got rid of talks too much and is boring Michael Smith as their color analyst. Bruce Bowen slid into his seat next to the venerable Ralph Lawler. Bowen brought experience, levity, witty humor and critique. For a rookie television analyst, he had a good season providing insight to an audience unfamiliar with the nuances, subtleties and practices of the game.
Bowen was hired as a Clippers analyst because he has a point of view he is willing- not scared- to share. That is also what got him fired. Though he is an employee of Fox Sports, the Clippers, naturally, have leverage when it is negotiation time and they influenced their television partner to can Bowen because he came down hard and to many, truthfully, on Leonard.
Where Bowen went wrong was not understanding the distinction between being an analyst for a team and a ESPN talking head. ESPN wants critique and bomb throwers. Teams want commentary but on the kind end of the spectrum. Be gentle.
What Bowen did right was critique the behavior, not the man. He didn’t attack Leonard’s character or value system, just his decision making and his handlers.
The Clippers are desperately trying to acquire Leonard in the summer of 2019. They have been told that Leonard wants to play in Los Angeles and even though the Lakers are his first choice, Leonard will consider the Clippers. The Clippers are new to free agent gets. They have never had an elite free agent sift through teams and say okay y’all I’m going to play for the Clips. So they are overly sensitive, reactive, anxious and walking on glass. Because they haven’t been in this elite arena before, they think that Kawhi gives a rat’s (you know what) about what the Clippers color analyst says.
Let’s say they are right and he does. And getting rid of Bowen seals the Kawhi deal. What they are telegraphing to him is that he will never be criticized, he will never be scrutinized, he will never have to be accountable, his behavior can be childish and deplorable and all about me (which it was) and they will just roll with it. He will be running things, not them. They have just let Kawhi know they are willing to transfer power to him. They are desperate.
If an elite player made a free agent decision on what an analyst said about him rather than roster, style of play, ability to contend, front office talent, then they are too much in their feelings to be able to drive a team to a title anyway.
Bruce Bowen was asked a question and he answered it. The truth is, he said what everyone was thinking. Yeah he has some homerism going on because he is so tied with the Spurs and still lives in San Antonio. But he kept it 100. He was fired for being good at his job.
“I think there’s nothing but excuses going on. First, it was, ‘Well I was misdiagnosed.’ Look here: You got $18 million this year and you think that they’re trying to rush you? You didn’t play for the most part a full season this year. And you’re the go-to-guy, you’re the franchise and you want to say that they didn’t have your best interest at heart? Are you kidding me? I think he’s getting bad advice.”
Bowen was 100% for real. Leonard was getting bad advice and that is why he is playing in Canada and not the U.S. His handlers were inexperienced at the you get more with honey than vinegar approach. He allowed his name to be dragged up and down and all around and now he has all the pressure. He must perform to get the contract he is seeking in the town he wants.
The Clippers box office crashed without Chris Paul. It’s L.A. They need a star and Danilo Galinari ain’t it. They’ll never have the pull of the Lakers but with CP3 they were holding their own in second place in the city of glitz. They had their star sycophants. But they cannot survive long term being a little engine that could. They have to be in the middle of the free agent scrum. They will have money next summer to sign free agents. If not Kawhi then Jimmy Butler or a longshot in Klay Thompson.
But there was no need to tip their hand and show desperation. Act like you’ve been there before. Oops. They haven’t.
I’m not against firing Bruce Bowen. Let him walk for his performance, if he doesn’t know how to analyze. Unemploy him. But it is apparent that Bruce Bowen analyzes a little too well.