NBA Life with Matt Bonner: Bonner finally gets his chance to vie in three-point contest
New Hampshire's own Matt Bonner finally had a chance to join the world's best 3-point shooters during NBA All-Star weekend festivities in Houston on Saturday night. The San Antonio Spurs forward, ranked 13th all-time in NBA 3-point shooting percentage (41.7), stands alone as the greatest basketball player to hail from the Granite State.
Little brother Luke Bonner, who sparked a social-media campaign to have Matt selected for the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, was in Houston watching the event. Meanwhile, others gathered at Red River Theatres in Concord for a viewing party on Saturday night.
"It's crazy thinking back on those days back at the YMCA in Concord," Luke Bonner said. "When Matt was in high school, he used to barter with the other kids in the gym to get someone to rebound shots for him. Matt would pay four quarters - enough for a Fruitopia or something from the vending machine - in exchange for rebounding 100 shots or 200 shots depending on the negotiating skills of the targeted rebounder."
Matt Bonner has wanted to compete in the 3-point contest since watching Larry Bird win the first three events from 1986-88. Prize money has grown through the years. Kevin Love of the Timberwolves pocketed $35,000 by winning the 2012 Three-Point Shootout.
"I'm very proud of him and happy he's there," Luke Bonner said before the event. "The support behind the 'Let Bonner Shoot' campaign has been great. When Matt's out there shooting, we're all out there with him."
Leading up the weekend, the Spurs won road games at Brooklyn, Chicago and Cleveland. Bonner went 3-for-3 from long against the Nets and had 11 points.
Sunday News: You hit some dagger threes in the second half against the Nets, but what else was a difference maker in that victory?
Matt Bonner: It was a tale of two halves. We really did a poor job defending the post in the first half. We did OK on offense. In the second half, we turned up the defense and got it going on both ends.
SN: You incorporated a hook shot into your game against the Nets. Are you making an effort to try and do more than shoot threes?
MB: No. It has to do with reacting to the defense. The Nets were doing a good job running me off the (three-point) line and forcing me to drive to the hoop. They were also doing a good job switching on pick-and-rolls. I was trying to roll and take the smaller man toward the hoop.
SN: How about Tony Parker and his 29 points?
MB: He just took the game over. His decision making was phenomenal, whether scoring for himself or reading the defense and hitting the open man for good shots. You see what happens when he goes out of the game. We can't just give him the ball and let him make plays. We're definitely lucky to have him down the stretch. It goes back to his basketball IQ and his court sense. He understands the flow of the game and knows when to attack and when to hit the open man.
SN: How much have you been thinking about the Three-Point Contest?
MB: I think about it all the time. Not during games, obviously. As soon as the game is over, I start thinking about it. I'm really excited. To me, that's going to be the biggest hurdle, getting over the adrenaline going into the competition.
SN: How do you do that?
MB: Meditate? I don't know.
SN: How have the Spurs been able to stay in first place without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
MB: It goes back to our overall depth and confidence in each other. Everybody can step in and contribute and help us win games. If guys get hurt here and there, we can keep winning without missing a beat.
SN: Have you ever thought about what the Spurs will do when Tim Duncan is no longer on the court?
MB: I have never thought about that. In my head, Tim will play until he's 60.
SN: It seems like you and your teammates really enjoy playing together.
MB: This is probably the most enjoyable season of my career. We have great chemistry and everyone understands the big picture.
SN: How do you like the new Barclay Center, home of the Nets?
MB: I thought the place was incredible when we first pulled in on the bus. There's a lot of cool architecture. It looks like a UFO out of Star Trek. Then when you arrive, you take this bus elevator to another level. And there's a pad that rotates you back around when you leave.
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Proceeds from Saturday night's event at Red River Theatres benefited the Rock On Foundation, a non-profit entity founded by the Bonner brothers. The foundation will offer scholarships and serve to "enrich the quality of life in communities by supporting athletic, artistic, and scholastic initiatives." Rock On will also distribute funds to fellow non-profit 501(c)3 organizations that support community artistic and/or athletic endeavors.
Matt Bonner discusses The NBA Life each week with radio broadcaster Chris Ryan and New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Kevin Gray, and the interview appears weekly in the N.H. Sunday News.