Another season. Another former Gator in the NBA Finals.
This time, it’s 10-year NBA veteran Matt Bonner. The 6-foot-10 bearded sharpshooter was all smiles following San Antonio’s sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA Western Conference finals on Monday night.
“We’re going to enjoy it for a couple of days but we’re going to go back to the Spurs way of doing things and start to prepare for whoever comes out of the East,” Bonner told San Antonio TV station WAOI shortly after the game.
Bonner was in his first season with the Spurs (and third overall) in San Antonio’s last trip to the NBA Finals. The Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0 in 2007 to earn their fourth NBA title in eight years. But Bonner appeared in just nine playoff games that season and did not play in an NBA Finals game.
Bonner’s role off the bench has grown in prominence since. During the regular season, Bonner averaged 4.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 68 games off the bench while shooting 44.2 percent from 3-point range. In the playoffs, Bonner has averaged 5 points and 2.2 rebounds and shot 50 percent (14-28) from beyond the arc. He’s blended in nicely to a roster that features point guard Tony Parker, scoring wing Manu Ginobili and future NBA Hall of Fame big man Tim Duncan.
“We’re not done pounding the rock,” Bonner said. “There’s still more work to do. I can’t say we’ve all been there before but we’re going to rely on our three leaders who have been to the finals multiple times. They’re going to lead the way.”
Bonner will assuredly make his first NBA Finals appearance this season. It could come against some former Gator teammates. The Miami Heat took a 2-1 series lead over the Indiana Pacers thanks to a turn-back-the-clock performance from former Gator forward Udonis Haslem, who had 17 points and 7 rebounds off the bench in Miami’s 114-96 Game 3 win. Former Gator and NBA All-Star forward Mike Miller also is a key reserve for the Heat. Miller, Haslem and Bonner all played together on UF’s 1999-2000 team that reached the NCAA Tournament Finals.
Here’s Bonner’s postgame interview after the Spurs clinched the NBA Western Conference Finals.