Spurs: Where Everyone Knows His Role

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LOS ANGELES – Two examples of what makes the Spurs — unselfish, deep, humble, precise, unwavering — the Spurs: Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair.

Both players have been shoved out of the rotation at different times. Tiago Splitter reduced Blair to mostly spot duty this season. Boris Diaw severely cut into Bonner’s minutes. Yet, whenever the two reserves are needed most, there they are ready to serve. And produce. Both are now needed even more now with Diaw recovering from back surgery and Splitter sidelined for at least Sunday’s Game 4 against the Lakers (7 p.m. ET, TNT) with a sprained left ankle.

Bonner, the lone Spur outside the Big Three on the last title team in 2007, has been a nuisance to Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, doing whatever’s necessary to corral him, including implementation of the “Bonner Bear Hug,” a maneuver surely passed along by former Spurs defensive genius Bruce Bowen. The move has been particularly effective against Howard, who gets frustrated that he can’t get a shot up and must march to the free throw line where he’s 24-for-40 in the series.

In 80 minutes of action in the first three games in which the Spurs have taken a 3-0 lead, Bonner has 26 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, three blocks and 10 fouls. His plus-minus is a whopping plus-56, including plus-29 in Game 2.

He was so effective that Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni actually said that the Lakers’ goal was to get Bonner out of the game. Imagine that?

“I don’t even know what to say to that,” Bonner said prior to Game 3.

Bonner, also known as the “Red Rocket” for obvious reasons, averaged just 13.4 mpg in the regular season and played in just 68 games. But with Diaw out, Bonner’s minutes have been ramped up to 26.7. He’s 9-for-14 from the floor and 5-for-7 beyond the arc. At one point in Game 3’s 120-89 beatdown of the Lakers, Bonner received a pass at the top of the arc and the L.A. crowd actually let out a collective groan, anticipating the inevitable swish.

“Matty’s a character guy, he’s a team person, he’ll do whatever’s asked of him,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “If he starts, if he doesn’t play, his work ethic will stay the same. He’s just a high-character individual who will give everything he has no matter the situation. So we’re fortunate to have him.”

Similarly on the outs was Blair, who averaged 14.0 mpg in 61 games. He didn’t score in 12 total minutes in Games 1 and 2, then came through with 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting to go with seven rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes in Game 3. Howard even brought up Blair’s shooting in his postgame comments, somewhat suggesting that Blair’s Tony Parker-like teardrop shot was a bit lucky.

Blair refuted such a notion on Saturday.

“I practice that shot before every game,” Blair said. “I call it the T.P. Tear Drop.”

Blair is the most logical candidate to get the Game 4 start in place of Splitter. He’s looking forward to the increased minutes because, obviously, every player wants to play in big games. But also the 6-foot-7, 270-pound center out of Pittsburgh admitted that he sees the opportunity to open the eyes of teams across the league. A free agent this summer, Blair said he loves San Antonio, but would welcome a chance to play more somewhere else.

“It’s just about knowing where you’re at and what your situation is,” Blair said. “In front of me is Tim Duncan and I would never mind in my life sitting behind Tim Duncan, or anyone else on the team. We’ve got great players and everybody accepts their role perfect. So all of that [about] I’m not getting minutes and stuff like that, that really doesn’t bother me. My duty is to do all the dirty work and be the junkyard of this team, so I’m going to do that. I have no problem with that. If I get in a better situation I think a lot of people will see more of my game.”

Blair has long been a name on the trade block, but through four seasons in which Blair has averaged as many as 21.4 mpg and started 62 and 65 games in consecutive seasons, the Spurs never pulled the trigger.

Right now they’re happy they didn’t.

“We haven’t played him as much as he’s wanted to play,” Popovich said. “To his credit, DeJuan has been a true pro.”

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24 Comments

  1. James says:

    You mention Bonner is called the Red Rocket ‘for obvious reasons’. Do you really know how he got that moniker? It’s not obvious.

    • 34yr fan says:

      …..great point….very few do know the “Real” origin for the nickname……. but we do know where the “Red Mamba” came from!!

      • ?????? says:

        it’s obviously because he likes to ride the rocket.

        come on…it’s “ride the rocket” matt bonner!

    • Go Spurs Go says:

      He got if from riding the train in Toronto, to practice and basketball games.

  2. NBA Fans says:

    Where is T-Mac? =(

  3. @ The writer-LMAO-i guess you used to watch the show “Cheers” because of this article title. I’m from Boston so i’m hip to it-“where everyone knows your name”piano play(dnnn-…dn-dn-dn-dn-dn-dn-…dnnn) :) -the real life place has great food too-havn’t been there for a while.

  4. MJfromOKC says:

    The Spurs didnt beat the Lakers they beat random players in Laker uniforms. Spurs fans should not be happy about this series at all. Saying some things like “every player knows his role” is superfluous. They did their job and beat the “Lakers.” They got a bye in the first round. They know it. Pop knows it. Everybody knows it.

    • James says:

      Spurs fans should not be happy? im sure some of Spurs fans are happy lol,, Also, Spurs still respected lakers backup players and you still have to give credit to the lakers backup players because they fought hard. Im a spurs fan, we feel your pain about ur team injuries.. Lakers is not the only one that faces injuries, all teams haved faced and battled through injuries.

    • 34yr fan says:

      ….so WHO put those players in Lakers uniform, okie???? got a bye form a 7th seed??? knowing your role is ‘superfluous’ to you…….. WHAT DO you know about basketball or any team sport for that matter…. maybe you would be better off just posting on the thunder’s blog with all your ‘homies’……..How come it took 75 + games to get first seed in the west if ‘everyone knows his role’ is superfluous’……hm?? good luck in the next two rounds !!

    • MrNBA says:

      It’s not the Spurs fault the Lakers were all out of shape because the SAS dealt with key injuries too. That said, they should return the ring they stole from Phoenix back in ’07 when they had that despicable excuse for a player named Horry.

  5. wooderson says:

    and not one mention of aron baynes? are you kidding me?! hes the epitome of what this article is saying. he should be guarding howard, he would just about be the most suited player NBA wide of guarding howard. popovich has some really poor qualities not playing the two aussies enough in this series. man i hope the warriors win so they can play the spurs that would be epic, wouldnt be able to pick a winner in that series if that match up was to happen

    • Roland0 says:

      As a Spurs fan I am happy! Why? because they are through to the 2nd round and can get some rest before playing again. And they did beat the Lakers. It’s not the Spurs fault the the Lakers organization filled their team with older, gimpy players and then got a coach who would run these same players to the ground. So those guys were the Lakers, maybe not the Lakers that the fans thought they had, but the Lakers as they are in reality.

  6. Kilroy says:

    We can trade blair, but the red rocket is essential to our team.

    Btw, sweep completed….. See you next season fakers.

  7. El Tigre says:

    This series would’ve been more competitive if it wasn’t for the Lakers’ injuries

  8. mm says:

    The Bucks will be the first team eliminated since their game is before the Spurs@Lakers game.

  9. Buddy Lee says:

    love the spurs, hope they complete the sweep

  10. Los Angeles Lakers will be the first team that will be eliminated in this years playoffs

  11. Gary Payton says:

    See how Spurs do in 2nd round to see if they are the team to come out of the West..

  12. ripn says:

    And the Lakers have no players, -_-