The recent decision of the Los Angeles Clippers to let go of TV analyst Bruce Bowen might be connected to their rumored plans to sign Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard once he enters unrestricted free agency in the 2019 offseason, according to a new report from ESPN.
Citing league sources, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote on Monday that the Clippers fired Bowen, a former San Antonio Spurs forward best known for his abilities as a defensive stopper, because of “critical comments” he made about Leonard, who was recently traded from the Spurs to the Raptors after missing all but nine games in the 2017-18 NBA season. Prior to the Clippers’ decision not to re-sign Bowen, he was under contract with Fox Sports West, but as Wojnarowski noted, all NBA teams have “significant input” when it comes to personnel decisions involving broadcast talent.
“I think there’s nothing but excuses going on,” Bowen said on June 22, in an appearance on Sirius XM Radio, slightly less than a month before Kawhi Leonard was traded.
“First, it was, ‘Well I was misdiagnosed [with an injury.]’ 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?”
The 2019 free agency chase is underway: In aftermath of critical comments about Kawhi Leonard, Bruce Bowen won’t return as TV game analyst for the Los Angeles Clippers. Story on ESPN. https://t.co/0kRmwpStBi— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 13, 2018
Given the Clippers’ decision to fire Bowen for the above comments, as well as his suggestion that Leonard was getting “bad advice,” ESPN wrote that the move underscored the importance of protecting not only players who are currently part of the Clippers organization but also those the team plans to sign during the 2019 free agency season.
The Clippers were among the top candidates to acquire Kawhi Leonard prior to his move to Toronto, and while he also mentioned the Los Angeles Lakers as a potential destination in 2019, ESPN hinted that the Clippers have enough salary cap space to sign the 27-year-old small forward and another player to a maximum contract next summer.
Should the Los Angeles Clippers sign Kawhi Leonard as a free agent in the summer of 2019, such a transaction could help the team speed up its rebuilding process, while also “throwing a wrench” into the crosstown Lakers’ plans to add another superstar to play alongside LeBron James, NESN wrote. Either way, the publication predicted that there’s a good chance Leonard, who is a Southern California native, spends just one season with the Toronto Raptors and ends up with the Lakers or Clippers in 2019.