#12 is my next jersey.
My wife will never read this, so I can admit the truth here: I’m in love with Bruce Bowen. After his performance ever at age 33-34 last season, he’s even better this year, shutting down everyone from Allen Iverson to Dirk Nowitski, blending seamlessly and selflessly into the offense, finishing on the break consistently, passing nicely, and nailing his 3′s – he’s currently the 4th-best 3-point shooter in the L. The guy represents everything that’s great about the Spurs organization: hard work, defensive intensity, poise and grace under pressure, class both on and off the court (I’ve heard only good things about him from people who know him), and utter relentlessness. His stats don’t begin to show what he does for the Spurs. There’s a reason why he plays 34 minutes a game while competing with the likes of Manu Ginobili, Michael Finley, and Brent Barry for PT at the swing positions, even when Pop has expressed a desire to limit his regular-season minutes.
The one thing I don’t like about Bruce’s game is his habit of occasionally stepping under jump shooters. It may be that he does that more to distract shooters rather than to intentionally injure them, but the fact is that he has injured a few players that way. But I’ll forgive him that one foible. As for all of the other tricks of the trade that some players accuse him of using, that’s all part of championship basketball, you whiny bitches.
Even though Bruce is an absolute ironman and takes great care of himself, at some point he’ll start to lose a step, and it won’t be long before he retires. I hope he’ll continue to be part of the Spurs organization in some way for many years to come, because as far as I’m concerned he’s a Spur and a San Antonian for life. His loyalty to the franchise and his contributions off the court set him apart. To give just one example: In the summer of 2004, he renegotiated his contract to allow the Spurs to sign Brent Barry – at a higher salary than Bruce was getting. I love Brent, but does any sane person doubt that Bruce is infinitely more important to the Spurs’ success?
If the Spurs don’t retire Bruce’s jersey, I’ll be mighty pissed. He might be the first guy with a career scoring average of 6.4 points to have his jersey retired, but he absolutely deserves it.
But it’s too early for that debate. Bruce still has a lot more superstars to shut down and a few more championships to win. In the meantime, I’ll be wearing my #12 jersey proudly as I talk smack vicariously through the TV to all of the scorers he frustrates, night after night.
Thank you, Bruce Bowen.
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