The Bucks announced the move Friday night after their monthlong attempts to trade him -- including talks this week with the Denver Nuggets -- did not result in a deal.
Bowen's full $4 million salary for next season would have been guaranteed if he was not released by Aug. 1. The Bucks will save half that amount by waiving Bowen and paying him the required $2 million buyout stipulated in Bowen's contract.
Bowen, 38, joined the Spurs in the summer of 2001 and was part of three championship teams (2003, '05 and '07) in his eight seasons in San Antonio. It's believed that a return to the Spurs in free agency is highly unlikely but contenders such as Orlando, Cleveland and Boston have been mentioned as potential suitors for Bowen.
The Bucks have tried all month to trade the veteran stopper since acquiring him from San Antonio on June 23 as part of a three-team trade that sent Richard Jefferson to the Spurs and also netted Kurt Thomas from San Antonio and Amir Johnson from Detroit. Fabricio Oberto went from the Spurs to the Pistons to complete the trade. It was understood from the start that Milwaukee would waive Bowen if it could not utilize him in a trade in July.
Via his Twitter account Friday night, Bowen wrote: "Just got off the plane [and] got word that I will not be in Milwaukee for Christmas!"
Bowen was one of five NBA players waived Friday, joining Boston guard Gabe Pruitt, Los Angeles Clippers guard Mike Taylor, Los Angeles Lakers swingman Sun Yue and fellow Buck Salim Stoudamire. All five players will be unrestricted free agents if they are not claimed by another team before 6 p.m. ET next Friday.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.