San Antonio Spurs 91, Milwaukee Bucks 84: Matt Bonner’s All-Star Weekend petition

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Manu Ginobili is a lock for the All-Star game, as the Milwaukee Bucks can attest to after the Spurs 91-84 victory in Milwaukee. And at an NBA-best 33-6, it would appear that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is going along for the ride as well.

But beyond that, despite having the top record, there appears to be very few guarantees when it comes to a second player representing the NBA’s best team. Tim Duncan is, for the first time in his career, not one of the two leading forwards being tapped by fan voting for a starting spot. Both he and Tony Parker face stiff competition for a reserve spot and are in no way a sure bet.

Enter Matt Bonner. The Spurs resident stretch four is often criticized for many of the things he doesn’t do (mostly shot blocking and rebounding), but what he does do—knock down open three-pointers—he does better than almost everyone in the league. It’s time the NBA served notice with an invite to the All-Star weekend’s hallowed 3-point shootout.

If David Stern and the rest of the NBA need any evidence to validate his selection, they simply need to fire up the video of tonight’s 17-point second half against the Bucks.

The NBA regular season is a long, grinding hell. Even for players at their athletic peak, sustaining maximum effort night in and night out is impossible. For teams playing the wrong end of a back-to-back on a cold night in Milwaukee, players capable of absorbing such regular season minutes are a valuable commodity.

In previous years, it would have been enough for Bonner to simply absorb those minutes provided the rest of the team was healthy enough to keep his role limited come playoff time (it hasn’t been). This season Bonner might be proving to be a little bit more.

Held scoreless on just three shots in the first half, Bonner entered a tight contest in the third quarter and promptly worked his plus-minus magic. It was a Bonner three-pointer with 3:36 left in the third quarter that put the Spurs ahead in the second half, but it was a string of different plays that made a large difference in the ball game.

Granted, the three-pointer is still the heart of Bonner’s game (he went 3-5), but a scouting report that should still read chase him off that line at all costs now includes a variety of other tricks.

Of course there was the tried and true ball fake and step in for a midrange jumper, but Bonner has quietly developed an awkward but mildly effective dribble game. While not a pretty sight to behold, the variety of flip shots and runners Bonner has added make his slow motion version of the Tony Parker spin move somehow viable in this league.

The death of the standstill catch and shoot role player in San Antonio goes beyond new roster additions, the holdovers are slowly evolving too.  Bonner is no longer stationary, and his newfound ability to become a secondary creator against broken defenses—along with George Hill, Richard Jefferson, and Gary Neal—go a long way towards keeping the Spurs offense rolling even as the other key cogs struggle.

Two years ago it might have seemed like a stretch, but Matt Bonner is a legitimate rotation player on a good team. Now, about that All-Star weekend…

  • zainn

    all of us felt like this somewhat about matty last season until he choked in the second round. I feel like he’s much more comfortable this season with everything and isn’t afraid to take his game to the rim anymore. I love his quick double crossover, I may have to use it sometime. I know gary won’t choke, I just hope matt won’t as well.

  • NYC

    With all the press RJ has gotten, Bonner’s work over the summer went unnoticed. He’s really improved all facets of his game. The boost this gives our team is (still) undervalued when you consider how many minutes he plays.

    Good job, Bonner. Now stop passing out when you drive the lane and dunk it. Or at least use one of your crazy flip shots/ running hooks. Even if you miss, you have to shoot it to make them pay for sagging off you. That’s the best thing he can do to help the team as a stretch 4: make the defense guard him.

  • rob

    Bonner the all-star? I’m liking what Bonner has improved to become for the Spurs, but all-star might be a tad bit of a stretch. :)

    With all the talk about trades and the Spurs needing another defensive big, I think the Spurs are fine with who they have and don’t see the team making any changes. Bonner has improved to be a more than adequate defender in the post. Also, it’s not like the Spurs are doing a “horrible” job in the post either. Especially with McDyess getting more playing time.

    Love got his double/double against the Spurs…but the Spurs made him work hard to get it. After a great first half for Bogut…the Spurs figured how to shut him down in the second half. The Laker game saw the Spurs dominate the post with a great game from Blair. And the Celtic game saw the Spurs hold their own, though be it Perkins and Garnett didn’t play.

    But if a trade is so wanted by some… here is a proposal and different angle to think about. It perhaps helps to propel the Knicks to finally getting Anthony.

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=47f32mb

    If enough trade picks can be garnished from the Spurs and Knicks the Nuggets might do it.

    Spurs get Chandler and Sheldon Williams (a former first round pick who I believe could become better being taught by Pop). Spurs wing position is solidified for the rest of the the season, the playoffs, as well as the entire backcourt being solidified for quite some time.

    Next summer the Spurs would only need to concentrate on one thing. Focus, via free agency, on getting another big. Unrestricted bigs next year…Perkins of Boston, Zack Randolph of Memphis, McRoberts from Indy. Restricted big…Al Horford from Atlanta.

    Of course with a glutten of really good backcourt players, the Spurs next season would have components to negotiate a trade with a team needing a really good guard/wing player that may be top loaded in the big department.

    So…there you have it. The last trade proposal I plan on presenting for the rest of this season. And not that I think the Spurs need (or would) make a trade now…but it would be an interesting scenario if it happened.

    Way to go Spurs….33 and 6. Great comeback win on the road on the 2nd night of a b2b.

  • neverthehero

    @ ROB: I think he was refering to that he should get an invite to All-Star weekend for the 3-Point contest, not an actual All-Star.

  • rob

    @neverthehero

    Correct you are. My apologies to Jesse. The best 3pt.% shooter in the league should get the invite.

  • ITGuy

    Bonner is one of my favorite playeers and I’m always willing to defend him against anyone writing bad comments about him. He dribbles the ball like he’s wearing combat boots though.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • Nick

    Agreed on Bonner. His defense and work on the boards shouldn’t go overlooked, either. This is the most well-rounded play we’ve seen from him.

    Not that I wish injury on any team (even the Mavs), but it’s nice finally getting some separation from Dallas in the standings.

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  • Luke

    Still don’t think Bonner is close to being an allstar. However, I would love to seem him in the 3-point contest. He’s got a quick release and he makes half of his threes. He’d have a great chance to win.

  • AS

    Matt has improved his rebounding, and, while I think it’s not enough against bigger frontcourts, on the other end his 3-point shooting creates matchup problems too.

    BTW, nothing about the Spurs in Yahoo or ESPN websites. Unbelievable.

  • Sarge

    Guys, it’s perfectly clear that the author doesn’t intend for Bonner to be an All-Star, but get an invite to the 3-Point Shooting Contest.

    That being said, Bonner’s gone off in quite a few games this year, and dude hustles on defense. He’s not going to make anyone think he’s the second coming of Timmy, but he’s not nearly the defensive liability he once was. Within the structure of the Spurs defense, he’s pretty good.

  • jwalt

    And this isn’t just one game, it’s for the season. Bonner has turned himself into a good all around player. Overlooked is that he hardly turns the ball over, .41 a game. Compare that with Blair’s 1.23 TO’s a game, in about the same amount of playing time.

    Typical night for Manu, +23 for the game, the only other starter with + score was Blair at +2. Every time he went out last night, the team struggled. For the season Manu is leading the team in +/-, and by a lot.

    Manu a lock for the All-Star game? Don’t think so. The coaches vote in the reserves and they have screwed him over about 3 times so far. No reason to think they won’t screw him over again. (Not that Manu cares, he just beats all these same coaches who underrate him).

  • jwalt

    Luke, no one is saying Bonner is an All-Star, including the article writer. He’s saying Bonner should be in the 3 point contest.

  • Peter

    “awkward but mildly effective” describes a lot of my life

  • BayAreaSpursFan

    I was totally against Bonner getting alot of mins. last season. I give him props for adjusting his game and improving his 3pt shot. I think he has a real shot as the most improved player in the league or sixth man of the year.

  • Phife

    Bonner seems to have put on some bulk since last season, which may have something to do with his improved post play. The Spurs training staff has done an absolutely incredible job the last two years.

    I’m actually starting to wonder what’s going on with Tiago. I know we haven’t seen him play enough to warrant such high expectations for him but, I can’t get these visions of the Scola trade out of my head.

  • Darin

    @rob- Zack Randolph will never play for the Spurs.

  • Kintaro

    I saw the game on FSSW last night, and WOW, Bill Land was all-aboard the Red Rocket Express. One of the best homer commentator jobs I’ve heard in a while. The level of hyperbole was perfect, as were his outrageous reactions to some utterly normal basketball plays by Bonner.

  • DieHardSpur

    why is it that this Spurs team seems to make all-stars out of other teams scrubs…?

  • Dr. Who

    I can’t see Bonner winning any most improved awards because in the regualr season he’s always been among league leaders in 3’s so it’s no surprise there. He’s improved defensively, rebounding and added a few little shots to his game. I don’t think that those improvements are enough to garner national attention to “most improved.” He hasn’t become a league leader in any other stats. But it has helped the Spurs quite a bit and I’ll take that over any award.

    Bonner is effective from the bench but I wouldn’t be so cavalier to thrust him in the starting line-up. He did give up an and 1 down the stretch I think within 3 minutes. Funny thing is that it’s so easy to spot the red head after a defensive lapse. I don’t notice other player’s defensive lapses as much. I guess being the red head on the court has it’s disadvantages. For all Bonner is and isn’t I do take great satisfaction when I see a Bonner dunk. It’s like the ultimate insult to the other team. “Bonner just dunked on you dude… yeah the red head with T-Rex arms… that guy.” In yo face! Luv it! BTW if he isn’t invited to the 3pt shoot out there is something seriously wrong. How can he not. Western Conference leader in 3pt% on the team with the best record in the NBA… oh yeah and he really really likes sandwhiches. What else could you want?

  • Sauce

    I think an important factor into Bonner’s effectiveness and overall play this year has to do with Bonner being given a multi-year contract last summer.

    You can tell Bonner is not the most confident guy in the locker room and at the age of 30, he still looks over at Pop whenever he does something wrong. But with a multi-year contract Bonner does not have the added pressure such as what city is he going to be living, etc.

    I remember seeing comments here about the contracts that were given last summer and how many people were against resigning Bonner, signing an unknown Neal, resigning Jefferson (which I am still on the fence about solely because of costs), and not keeping Gee and Temple.

    Almost 40 games into the season now, it’s safe to say the front office has proven to be the best in the league yet again.

  • TD = Best EVER

    @ Rob

    I love the trade idea, but you didn’t push the boundaries enough. So I got to thinking…….What would happen if SA really wanted to rebuild NOW while STILL trying at good ol number 5…….

    And then this came to me….

    Take your trade – http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=47f32mb

    And take it to the MAX!! – http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=4gawejy

    SA – gets younger, deeper and longer and an expiring contract

    D.Wright – 25, 6-9, Most 3-balls made this year
    Radmanovic – 30, 6-10, Combo, stretch, forward.
    B Wright – 23, 6-10, Very similar to Anthony Randolph – not as good of a jumper, but not nearly the headache, could use a change of scenery

    Denver – Extremely Deep team – 4 young quality players to rebuild around( of which 2 go directly into the starting line up) and 11 million dollars off the books.

    NY – gets their coveted superstar and a damn good 6th man in RJ(RJ gets to run and gun like crazy again in the D’Antoni System)

    GS – gets younger, deeper, and another expiring contract

    Chandler – a younger version of D.Wright – plays better D
    Douglas – Combo guard, 6th man that they desperately need
    JR Smith – Offensive Specialist for rent – if it doesn’t work – just let him go

    So what say you?

    PS – Is it me or is the trade machine dangerously addicting……..

  • Daniel T

    rob:

    I could go along with that trade depending upon how many draft choices might be required, though I don’t expect Denver would go along with it. I don’t think the Knicks really improve, except maybe at the box office.

    While you also make a good point on the Spurs concentrating on getting another big in the off-season, I don’t think the higher priced agents like Randolph will be within their reach. Even if McDyess retires, unless the new collective bargaining agreement is surprisingly more liberal than the current one, they’ll likely be over the salary cap and only able to offer a mid-level exception or so. The only one on your list that could be within the Spurs’ price range would be McRoberts, who has a growing list of DNP-CD’s.

  • Hobson13

    I’ve never been a huge Bonner fan (especially when he can’t hit his 3’s) but I have to give the man his respect. His improved play has really helped this team. Without him playing lights out last night, we don’t come away with a win. This has been the Spurs calling card for most of the year. You never can tell who will have a big impact on any given game. Besides the Big 4, Neal, Hill, Bonner, and even Blair have come up big in multiple games EACH and led the team to a victory. This is what’s so crazy about this team. RJ and Tony were terrible and yet we still come up with our 3rd win in 4 days.

    IMO, our defense is very slowly beginning to take shape. In the last 4 games, our opponents have posted FG percentages of 37.5%, 39.6%, 37.8%, and 39.5%. This is after we got blown up against the Knicks and Celtics. However, before those two terrible games we held teams to 32.9%, 42.7%, 35.4%, and 37.5% shooting. To me, our defense is getting better besides a few bumps in the road against very good offensive teams like the Knicks, Magic, and Celtics.

  • DorieStreet

    @ Sauce-

    Yeah, it’s the contract alright, but not because of where he will be living, yada yada….it is because that contract states ” this big money we are giving you means you better produce–all the time: make your 3’s against the elite teams & on the road; if they run you off the line, get points some other way-don’t pass away the ball unless it’s a better shot; and you do have to play defense also–get better at it; you have the longest tenure in a Spurs uniform except for the ‘Core 3′ so carry yourself as a veteran- do all you can to help this team win-we are counting on YOU, Matt Bonner.” That is what that multi-year deals means.

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  • DorieStreet

    @ rob==

    Sheldon Williams??? The Atlanta Hawks have a long, pathetic history of #1 draft picks that were very good to great in college, but flat out fell on their faces once they got in the league. “The landlord” (Williams collegiate ‘moniker’)- ranks as one of the worst, he being picked 5th overall in 2006. A 6’9″ center, he excelled (numerous ACC records & awards, along with NCAA recognition) because he benefitted from a great team (Duke–teammates JJ Redick , Loul Deng, Chris Duhon). But once in the NBA, he was too short at 5, and too slow to adjust to playing at the 3 or 4 spot. In 4 1/2 seasons he is now on his 5th team. Best thing going for him basketball wise was he almost won a ring being with the Celts last year. Now he is with the Nuggets, playing decent minutes. and so-so stats (6rpg/5ppg)–to sum it up- he is a slow DeJaun Blair–without quickness and energy. The most notable thing about Williams– he is married to former Tennessee LadyVol standout & current LA Sparks forward Candice Parker.

  • L-Man

    One year Bowen and Barry were right at the top, and didn’t get the invite. The league is jealous of the Spurs and always has been jealous. Bonner should be there as should all 3 of the Big 3 as the Spurs play team ball and get contributions from everyone. Without the Big 3 who set everyone up we wouldn’t have the best record in the league. If it was l.A. or Boston they would send 3 guys, for the Spurs who knows?

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  • rob

    @TD=BE

    “So what say you?”

    Sorry. I can not look at your proposal. Even when I copy and paste the link when loading, it just goes into a continual loop withour displaying.

    @DorieStreet

    Williams was just to make the trade happen. He would garnish as much playing time as Splinter, but would only cost under a mil per to sit on the bench. My comment regarding him was more that if Pop couldn’t make him any better…no one probably could. But it wouldn’t matter one way or the other regarding how this year’s team has been playing with the bigs that get playing time now.

    Anyway…this trade doesn’t happen in my view. I was just presenting a different angle that might help the Spurs get another big next summer via trade by getting the components they could use to help land a prolific big.