Philadelphia, PA – If you entered Wells Fargo Center on Monday night expecting great NBA basketball, you were setting yourself up for disappointment.
Sure the Sixers have been one of the NBA's most improved teams this year but most of their big man rotation was wiped out by injury and illness coming in.
Meanwhile, Washington, despite the fact that John Wall had finally started to play like a No. 1 overall pick over the team's past five games, came in with the league's worst record at a miserable 2-12 and showed why rather quickly.
The Wizards tapped out in almost record time, falling behind by as many as 34 points en route to a 103-83 drubbing at the hands of a Sixers team playing with an ill Elton Brand and without centers Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic. S.D. Jones was more competitive in the inaugural Wrestlemania when he lost in eight seconds to King Kong Bundy that Washington was on Monday night.
In fact I wondered if Flip Saunders, a solid coach in both Minnesota and Detroit before he ever arrived in D.C., might just walk off into the sunset at intermission with the Wiz behind 62-32.
It's not like Flip doesn't have any talent on hand. What he doesn't have, however, is a glue guy -- a player like Bruce Bowen.
Bowen was in the news earlier Monday when the San Antonio Spurs announced they were planning on retiring his No. 12 later this season.
And that got me thinking. As important as Bowen was to three different Spurs championship clubs, retiring the number of a role player -- any role player is heresy or at least it should be.
Take Philadelphia. The Sixers have a storied history believe it or not. Glance up at that the rafters at WFC and you will see banners honoring Wilt Chamberlain's No. 13, Julius Erving's No. 6 and Billy Cunningham's 32.
Others like Mo Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Hal Greer and Charles Barkley have also been given the royal treatment by Philadelphia. All Hall of Famers or in the case of Cheeks and Jones -- darn close. One day Allen Iverson will join that contingent once a few open wounds have had time to heal.
But forget about Luke Jackson, the amazing power forward from the 1966-67 team that some still call the greatest of all time. And forget about Clint Richardson the defensive-minded guard from the Moses Malone-fueled Fo' Five Fo' '82-83 world championship team.
That's not to say those players aren't revered in Philly. They and a host of others are but the 76ers have set the bar high for any player to get his number retired.
The Spurs have not and believe me I understand how Bowen exemplified the Gregg Popovich-era in the Alamo City. The 6-foot-7 swingman out of Cal State Fullerton earned a spot on the NBA's All-Defensive Team in eight of his nine seasons with the Spurs (was a second team selection in 2001, 2002 and 2003 before earning first team honors in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008).
Bowen is one of just five swingmen in NBA history to earn All-Defensive Team honors in eight-or-more straight seasons joining Scottie Pippen (10 straight from 1991-00), Jones (nine straight from 1977-85), John Havlicek (eight straight from 1969-76) and Michael Cooper (eight straight from 1981-88).
But, understand those other four players were no one-trick ponies and could hurt you at both ends of the floor. Bowen was a non-entity for most of his career on offense.
Some romantics have already told me that Bowen's honor will send future players a message that professionalism, hard work and unselfishness are rewarded in San Antonio.
I say respect the game and the history of the organization. If you want to honor Bowen, give him a pat on the back or a bobblehead, not a place in history reserved for players like George Gervin and David Robinson or in the future, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
But overreaching has always been the Spurs' history with this type of thing. Before the organization got great with Robinson and then Duncan, they retired Johnny Moore's 00. From the championship-era, the club has already retired Avery Johnson's number.
Larry Kenyon should be insulted and Tiago Splitter should be getting ready.
San Antonio evidently needs another marketing ploy -- one that insults the very fabric of this proud basketball powerhouse.
I honored Bowen they way he should be honored -- remembering him for who he was and what he did. And thinking boy I bet Flip Saunders would have loved to have had Bruce Bowen tonight.