Turnover in the local announcing ranks happens, but the Los Angeles Clippers have made a change for reportedly a highly unusual reason. Former Spurs, Heat, Celtics and Sixers player Bruce Bowen was hired as the analyst for Fox Sports West’s Clippers’ broadcasts last year (replacing long-time analyst Michael Smith, who’d played for the team in 1995 and then spent 19 seasons as their color commentator) alongside Ralph Lawler, but as per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, he’s now out after one season.
The reason doesn’t appear to be anything Bowen said on a Clippers’ broadcast or even anything he said about a Clippers’ player, but comments he made on a Sirius XM radio interview about then-San Antonio Spurs player Kawhi Leonard (now with the Toronto Raptors):
In the aftermath of critical comments about 2019 free agent target Kawhi Leonard, Bruce Bowen won’t be renewed as the LA Clippers television game analyst next season, sources told ESPN. …The sides were expected to move forward on a new deal before Bowen’s public comments on Leonard, sources said.
…”I think there’s nothing but excuses going on,” Bowen told Sirius XM Radio on June 22. “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 told Sirius. “I think what you’re starting to see now is an individual given a certain amount of advice, and it’s not the right advice. Here it is: You were protected in San Antonio. You were able to come up during a time where you still could lean on Tim [Duncan], Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili].”
Bowen’s contract was with Fox Sports West, not the team, but like all NBA teams, the Clippers have a lot of say in who works their TV broadcasts. But why would they care what one of their broadcasters says in a separate interview about a player who wasn’t on the team at the time and still isn’t on the team now? Well, Leonard’s a free agent in the summer of 2019, and Wojnarowski’s sources say he’s primarily interested in signing with the Lakers or the Clippers. The Clippers are trying hard to sell him on their team, and they’ve cleared enough cap space to sign two max-contract players. So they probably decided that it wasn’t worth keeping an analyst around who might hinder their efforts to recruit Leonard.
This is an interesting overall development, though, and just the latest landmine for local broadcasters to avoid. We’ve seen some local broadcasters get in trouble for on-air remarks, but those usually haven’t been about particular players. And of course there have been some flare-ups between broadcasters and athletes, but many have involved the team the broadcasters are calling. When there has been local broadcasting controversy involving players on another team (hello, Joe Simpson), that’s often led to some harsh words, but rarely any suspensions or firings. But with local broadcasters often seen as an extension of the team, it’s understandable why the team might think their negative comments about a pending free agent could hurt the chances of bringing in that player. Whether that justifies making a broadcasting change or not is a different story, but the Bowen case shows at least one team thinks that way.