SAN ANTONIO (AP) — In his more than 10 years in the league, San Antonio’s Bruce Bowen has seen plenty of impressive players and breakout performances — most of them just a few inches from his face.
So when his matchup with LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers is billed as the top confrontation to watch in the upcoming NBA finals, Bowen is neither fazed nor impressed.
“The No. 1 assignment in the league?” Bowen repeated back when asked about guarding James. “That’s your opinion, that’s your opinion. … There’s a lot of other scorers in this league, too.”
The Spurs’ Bowen, who turns 36 on June 14, has been voted to the NBA All-Defensive team the last seven years and was selected for the first team the last four. He’s been runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year the last three seasons.
The 6-foot-7, 200-pound Bowen will likely get much of the time against the 6-8, 240-pound James, who scored a career playoff high 48 points in Game 5 of the Eastern finals against Detroit.
Since then, James’ offensive prowess has dominated most talk about the finals. But Bowen isn’t necessarily buying into it, especially not when the finals start Thursday in San Antonio.
“I think Michael Jordan’s 60-something points in Boston was incredible. Now do I think it got this much media coverage? No. Did it deserve it? You could say it did,” Bowen said. “Magic Johnson, his rookie year in the NBA, the show he put on in Philly. That is huge. But it goes to show you that if you’re not playing anymore, it’s, ‘OK, well, we’re looking for the next best thing.’
“I think it was impressive what he did and going through my mind, it’s nothing, because I’m not there, I’m not a Detroit Piston, I’m just watching the game as an avid fan,” Bowen added.
But don’t get Bowen wrong. It’s not as if he hasn’t taken notice of James’ skills.
“It’s a matter of him being their foundation, their go-to guy, and he’s going to do that night-in and night-out,” Bowen said. “It’s important for us to come with our hard hats and be ready to play.”