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Unpacking the Bruce Bowen Dismissal

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Bruce Bowen was only the Clippers’ TV analyst for a single season. Here are some thoughts on his abrupt dismissal.

NBA Global Games London 2015 Tip Off Party - Arrivals Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

The Bruce Bowen era is over.

Bowen, who came 39 years short of matching Ralph Lawler’s tenure with the Clippers, was forcibly moved on after a series of irritating, or worse, moves in his lone season alongside Lawler in the Clippers’ broadcast booth.

According to the L.A. Times, his dismissal wasn’t as much about Bowen’s comments about Kawhi Leonard as it was a series of concerns that culminated with the former ESPN broadcaster opining about Leonard’s lost season in San Antonio. While it’s not the juiciest of topics, the offseason is slow, and there is still a bit to unpack. So, here goes:

  1. Who cares if Bowen said something negative about Leonard? He’s an analyst, isn’t that his job?

To some extent, this is a much ado about nothing type situation. But there is a difference between working for ESPN and working as a pseudo-team employee (even if FOX Sports technically hired him). After spending nearly four years in the gray area of team media and external media representative, I can attest to the trickiness of this arrangement. There were plenty of times that I was on a national radio hit with an opportunity to body slam an opponent or shed some light on an internal situation. Asked about Zach Randolph getting the best of Blake Griffin during the 2012 Playoffs on a Memphis radio show, I deflected and complemented Randolph.

Obviously, Bowen has a different reputation to uphold, and it’s easy to understand his take that he wanted to show he’s not going to be homer, but instead provide insightful opinions about the game he loves. So, yes, providing analysis is certainly something that would be expected. But if the Clippers truly think that Bowen’s presence would be an impediment to even a chance at Leonard next offseason, then they did the right thing. It’s not like they were removing Lawler, or even Michael Smith, who was with the club for 13 years prior to Bowen’s arrival.

2. So, the Clippers have a chance at Leonard?

Never said that, but we saw enough Leonard-Clippers smoke this offseason to believe there has to be some fire. A recent ESPN poll put the Clippers’ chances of landing Leonard significantly lower than the 58 percent who believe he’ll go to the Lakers. Still, the Clippers are in L.A. and could be interesting players in next year’s market. Bowen wasn’t good enough to mess around with that.

3. Bowen wasn’t good?

Not really. It became most noticeable in games that he missed. Lawler’s chemistry with anyone would be at least average, he’s that good. But it was obvious that Lawler had a much better rapport with Corey Maggette and Don MacLean, two of the candidates to replace Bowen. The hire seemed weird to begin with, anyway. Bowen was a national analyst on studio shows with limited in-game color experience. He had no ties to the Clippers or the town, besides being a Cal-State Fullerton alum. And his reputation as a player may have made him too polarizing for a local broadcast gig outside of San Antonio, where his number is retired and he’s rightfully revered as a crucial piece of the Tim Duncan era.

4. What’s next?

As mentioned above, Maggette and MacLean are candidates, while Brent Barry and Ryan Hollins are considered potential targets as well. Barry would be the best get, but I have strong personal opinions on both Maggette and Hollins. Maggette was one of my favorite Clippers. He’s charismatic and removed enough from the league to feel safe being critical. He’s also been groomed alongside Lawler, who also loves Maggette, and worked his way up from guest spots on broadcast pregame shows to becoming a fixture. Hollins, who played two seasons with the Clippers in 2012-13 and 2013-14, has shined on ESPN and told me long ago that he had ambitions to become a member of the media when his playing days were finished. He has worked hard to do that, and while his playing career fizzled shortly after leaving Los Angeles, his basketball acumen and conversational way of explaining complicated ideas could make him as ideal of a fit as anyone.