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Bowen Heads South

October 4th, 2004 by lgeorgia

The full story behind why the Los Angeles Lakers decided to part ways with Shaquille O’Neal may forever remain a mystery. What is known is the fact that Lakers brass made sure to ship him as far away from La-La land as possible. Miami, Florida to be exact.

Shaq will be teaming up with the Heat next year, taking his reign of terror back to Florida (he was drafted by the Orlando Magic) and the Eastern Conference. Diesel will visit his former foes only twice next year, and although it will probably be two times too many for Lakers fans, consider the alternative. If O’Neal was traded to another team in the Western Conference or worse in the Pacific Division, he would see his old squad three or four times, not counting possible playoff implications.

A similar situation is brewing here in Denver. Free agent forward Ryan Bowen, the longest tenured member of the Nuggets, accepted a one-year offer to play for the Houston Rockets. “RyBo” to his fans, Bowen has garnered a reputation as one of the hardest working players in the NBA. His hustle and selflessness erased his lack of offensive skill, and his “blue collar” style of play received much acclaim from fans, teammates and opponents alike. His ability to single-handedly bring a team back into a game is a legend best coined “The Bowen Factor”.

Shaquille O’Neal is the best player in basketball, so comparing his departure to that of Bowen’s may seem asinine. It isn’t. Bowen is staying in the Western Conference, and his Rockets will face the Nuggets three times next year in the regular season. With his hustle, knack for finding the loose ball and resume chock-full of late game heroics, Ryan Bowen is the type of player that can put a decent team like Houston over the top.

Having already lost another fan favorite in Chris Andersen to the free agent market, (Andersen signed with the New Orleans Hornets) Nuggets front office personnel have quite the task ahead of them. How do they go about explaining why two fixtures on the Pepsi Center floor are suddenly playing elsewhere?

To those familiar with the Nuggets’ situation, it’s simple. There is very little room under the cap from which to sign players. $2.4 million to be exact, and that’s peanuts considering Denver needs to sign at least three, and preferably four more players. With the emergence of Carmelo Anthony as already one of the best players in the league, playing time for a guy like Ryan Bowen is scarce. Regardless, the intangibles he brings to the table should be hard to overlook.

GM Kiki Vandeweghe’s situation is not one to envy. He obviously had to prioritize his list of remaining free agents, and wanted to wait on a decision regarding Bowen. On the flipside, Bowen wanted to secure a deal as soon as possible, especially with training camp on the horizon (it opens today). Houston expressed an interest in Bowen’s services, and the rest is history. The NBA is a business, and situations like this aren’t uncommon.

Regarding Bowen, Vandeweghe states, “We’re grateful for all that Ryan has done for both the team and community over the last five years. We wish him the best of luck.” A safe statement that succeeds in sending Bowen off graciously, but fails to acknowledge the potential severity of the situation.

The Western Conference is taut, and close to all of its fifteen teams have a shot at the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, only eight teams are invited. Although the addition of Kenyon Martin all but assures one of the eight slots, the fact that Ryan Bowen is after the same goal as part of another team is unsettling.

As proven last year, every one of the 82 regular season contests counts. The Nuggets came down to the wire, squeaking out a playoff berth over conference foes Utah and Portland. Towards the end of last year, with all three teams in a dead heat, the famed “tiebreaker” was the topic of major discussions at water coolers across the country.

If two or more teams have identical win/loss records with no games left to play, how the teams played one another comes into the picture. If the Nuggets and Rockets were deadlocked record-wise, whoever took two of three games during the regular season would get the postseason nod.

Even though the Rockets and Nuggets are two very talented teams, anything can happen in the topsy-turvy west, and the playoff race will undoubtedly come down to the last few games of the season. Ryan Bowen could be the wild card in these three grudge matches.

Nuggets fans have witnessed firsthand the momentum shifts The Factor creates by himself, and that surely won’t change with a new uniform on his back.

Attention: Nuggets – Score early and score often against the Rockets, because when the Bowen Factor is unleashed late in a close game, all hope is lost.

The best of luck to Ryan Bowen and his new team as they venture into next season. They’ll have the support of this fan… for 79 games anyway. I don’t even want to picture facing him in the playoffs.

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3 Responses to “Bowen Heads South”

  1. Wavatar Knugsfan Says:

    Bowen will be missed. As will Tskita. The real question is where will the Nuggets outside shooting come from? Are there anyone available through trade or free agency that would fit the bill?

  2. Wavatar Buried Says:

    We have Vo. Rodney is very good from deep. Skita is at times. We also have Bryon Russell in camp, who is one of the best of all time. Buckner can hit it. Carmelo will be better. I’m not worried about outside shooting.

  3. Wavatar cambrad Says:

    I hope Ryan makes a return in the future.

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