Bruce Bowen doubles down on Kawhi Leonard and then takes aim at the Clippers

Bruce Bowen served as an NBA analyst for the Los Angeles Clippers until he criticized Kawhi Leonard. (Getty Images)

We learned earlier this week that former San Antonio Spurs guard Bruce Bowen was reportedly relieved of his duty as the Los Angeles Clippers’ color analyst for comments critical of Kawhi Leonard, which seemed like a ridiculous reason to fire someone whom you pay to provide his NBA opinions.

Not only did Bowen confirm that the Clippers informed him directly that his firing “was because of my comments toward Kawhi,” he doubled down on Leonard in an appearance on Dan Patrick’s radio show.

Asked by Patrick if he would build a team around Leonard, Bowen said flat-out, “No, I would not.”

“There’s no way that you can say without having some type of doubt that I would want to be in a bunker with Kawhi when he doesn’t want to support his teammates,” added Bowen, who took umbrage with Leonard remaining in New York to rehab his mysterious quadriceps injury rather than join his team on the bench for their first-round playoff series in April. “Now, you get in that bunker with Tim Duncan, because you know he’s there, and if you’re a go-to guy, this is what’s required.”

Bowen believes Leonard could regret leaving the Spurs

While the three-time NBA champion maintains his relationship with Leonard and his family is still “very good,” Bowen said his opinion of the two-time Defensive Player of the Year changed over the course of the past year, when Leonard was reportedly at odds with his teammates, coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs organization — rifts that ultimately landed him with the Toronto Raptors. Bowen believes Leonard could come to regret leaving a San Antonio team that fostered his career.

This was all an extension of the comments Bowen made about Leonard to SiriusXM Radio in June:

“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. 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, Tony (Parker) and Manu (Ginobili).”

Those are the comments for which Bowen said he was fired by the Clippers.

Bowen didn’t hold back on the Clippers, either

Now that Bowen is no longer tied to the second-most popular NBA team from Los Angeles, he is not only free to speak more openly about Leonard, but he can be more critical of the Clippers, too. And that might end up being more damaging to their credibility than if they were to keep him around.

“Kawhi never said he wanted to play for the Clippers,” Bowen told Patrick on Thursday. “He said he wanted to play for the Lakers, and unfortunately … you’re going to run your organization based on hopes, maybe, and getting rid of others. Now, if I tore him down and I was disrespectful to him, that’s one thing, but that’s not the case. As an analyst, I’m supposed to talk about what I see and what I feel for this game that I love, and if you can’t do that, then what does that say about your organization?”

Leonard is from Los Angeles and reportedly wants to play in his hometown when he becomes a free agent next summer. He has been linked most often to the Lakers, but multiple reports have also suggested he will consider the Clippers in 2019. Both teams will have the cap space to sign him.

Like the rest of us, Patrick was curious why the Clippers would go to the lengths of firing a TV analyst for critical comments he made a year before a potential target’s free agency. So, Patrick asked Bowen if he thought Leonard’s camp urged the Clippers to fire the former Spur, but Bowen wasn’t buying it.

“I don’t think I’m that powerful where I would be the reason someone wouldn’t want to go to a team, said Bowen. “I mean, what are you doing — are you playing or are you listening? And if you are listening, then listen to the words that are said and receive the constructive criticism, because that’s my job to be critical of someone’s play. Now, if I’m just tearing a player down, that’s one thing, but I don’t think I’m big enough to where someone would say, ‘You know what, I’m not going there because Bruce Bowen is there and he’s on the mic.'”

Bowen instead thinks he’s the Clippers’ scapegoat. “I think if you can’t get free agents in Los Angeles, that has nothing to do with Bruce Bowen,” he finished. “That has more to do with the organization.”

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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