Bowen on lockout: ‘It’s time to come together’

When last the NBA commissioner characterized the status of the league’s talks with the players union, David Stern called the gap separating the two sides “a gulf.”

From his cozy spot in retirement, former Spurs forward Bruce Bowen has a foot on each side of that gulf.

“I understand what it’s like to lose money; I’ve had a business that lost money,” Bowen said Friday, referring to his Yardley’s Spa and Salon, which shuttered earlier this year. “But I also understand, as a player, you only have a certain window to make money in the NBA. So I’ve been on both sides of it.”

However, when it comes to discussing the NBA lockout, which already has erased the preseason and two weeks of the regular season and, as of Monday, began involving a federal mediator, Bowen sounds less like a business owner or a player.

And more like a fan.

“It’s time,” Bowen said. “It’s time for both sides to come together. Both sides have to give. If they don’t give, nobody wins.”

Speaking after a news conference at The Dominion announcing him as a member of the latest five-person class of the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame, Bowen — a three-time NBA champion during his eight-season stint with the Spurs — lamented the loss of regular-season games for the second time in NBA history.

When it comes to articulating his biggest fear in the midst of the league’s latest impasse, Bowen begins sounding a little like a business owner again.

“My biggest fear is those season-ticket holders will find something better to do with their money,” Bowen said.

That’s not to say Bowen, an eight-time NBA All-Defensive team honoree who retired after the 2008-09 season, doesn’t still occasionally think like a player.

As a survivor of the last NBA work stoppage, which lopped 32 games from the start of the 1998-99 campaign, Bowen had a message for today’s players on hiatus.

Stay in shape.

“Once they start playing, there’s going to be a lot of injuries,” said Bowen, 40, now an NBA analyst for ESPN. “I saw it last time. Some guys, especially young guys, just don’t stay in shape. They don’t know what’s about to hit them.”

Bowen had little trouble staying in fighting shape during the 1998-99 stoppage. On the cusp of just the third season of what would become a 13-year career, Bowen was still fighting for a place in the NBA.

“I worked out every day,” Bowen said. “I had to show I belonged.”

These days, Bowen finds himself on the sidelines of the NBA’s newest labor dispute, rooting for both sides.

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