[size=18:74509f31d9]Nuggets cut loose Bowen[/size]
Team may try to sign its longest-tenured player to a new deal
By Chris Tomasson, Rocky Mountain News
June 11, 2004
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - For years, Ryan Bowen was the Denver Nuggets' survivor. But Thursday, he was voted off the island.
The Nuggets elected not to pick up the 2004-05 contract option on their longest-tenured player, making the forward an unrestricted free agent after five seasons with the team.
The Nuggets had until June 30 to make a call on Bowen's option for $1.38 million, but made it early so they would have a chance to sign him to a new, less expensive deal.
With the exception of NBA Finals competitors Detroit and the Los Angeles Lakers, teams today must turn in their lists of eight protected players for the June 22 or 23 expansion draft. The Nuggets must expose one player, and it is expected to be sparingly used guard Jeff Trepagnier.
Had Bowen been left unprotected and selected by Charlotte, he would have been ineligible to return to the Nuggets next season, even if the Bobcats didn't pick up his option. The move also frees additional salary-cap room for Denver, which should have more than $20 million to spend.
"It was the best option," Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe said. "If I had my druthers, I'd love to have him back next year. And it does give us some more (salary-cap) flexibility."
Vandeweghe called it "tough" to let go of Bowen, who averaged 0.9 points in limited minutes last season. He was the only remaining player from before Vandeweghe took over as general manager in 2001.
"He wasn't playing much, so the writing was on the wall," Gary Zucker, Bowen's agent, said. "He'll consider coming back to Denver, but he's going to explore all his options."
Any offer by the Nuggets probably would be for less than $1.38 million, but Zucker said Bowen "won't be coming back for the minimum" salary of $807,546.
Bowen didn't return a telephone message. He told a Nuggets official he is on vacation in Orlando, Fla., and wouldn't comment.
The Nuggets have nine players who are under contract for next season or are restricted free agents. Vandeweghe wouldn't confirm it, but it looks to be a no-brainer Trepagnier will be exposed.
"I'm almost certain Jeff won't be protected," his agent, Sam Goldfeder, said. "But that's fine that he can go somewhere else."
If Trepagnier, a restricted free agent, is selected by Charlotte, he becomes unrestricted. But he would be unable to sign next season with the Nuggets.
Bowen's departure leaves forward Chris Andersen, a restricted free agent after playing three seasons with the team, as Denver's longest-tenured player. The move on Bowen all but assures Andersen will be protected.
"That's good news," Andersen said. "I want to come back to Denver."
Let's turn that around a bit. If the Pacer's are wanting to keep Anthony Johnson they need to instruct him to opt out so they can resign him. Then again, depending on if Brezac or JJ is unprotected they probably wouldn't have to do that, because they are more along the lines of the type players Charlotte is looking for.
As for Andersen being protected I was hoping he would be the one to go to Charlotte. He's on my fantasy basketball team and he's very productive except he only get 15 minutes a game with Denver. I figured he might get more minutes with Charlotte. Shoot!