Matt Bonner, also known as “The Sandwich Hunter,” signed a four-year, $16 million deal that allows him to continue his work on and off the court in the place he fits perfectly.
Bonner’s re-introductory media gathering lacked the pyrotechnics we saw in Miami last week, but for those of us that appreciate the game of role players like him around the league, his show (above) was most appropriate.
In the old days, Matt Bonner was a grounded man with simple tastes. But becoming filthy rich can change a person, and not even Bonner is immune to the trappings associated with a financial windfall.
So after signing the largest contract of his life Tuesday, the longtime Pontiac Grand Prix driver and delicatessen aficionado embarked on a new age of outlandish spending.
“When I splurge,” Bonner said, “I’m going to order double meat on my sandwich.”
Maybe he stopped short of cabanas on South Beach, but for Bonner, his new four-year Spurs deal — believed to be worth $16 million — was celebration enough. After four years in San Antonio, Bonner said his first choice when he became a free agent this summer was to stay put, and general manager R.C. Buford said bringing him back was a top priority.
Both sides just had to wait until the NBA’s free-agent dominos started to fall, starting with mega-prize LeBron James.
“Matt was just next,” Buford said in a deadpan perhaps inspired by his newest signee, “right after LeBron.”
Even if Bonner’s profile isn’t James-like — he averaged 7.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last season — his production and efficiency have been quietly superb. Bonner, a floor-stretching 6-foot-10 sharpshooter who made $3.2 million last season, ranks among the NBA’s leaders in plus/minus rating, which measures how a team performs while the player is on the floor.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – When they were coming off the board in 2003, who knew the celebrated Draft class of 2003 would end up being the headliners in the celebrated free agent class of 2010?
We certainly didn’t here at the hideout.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all looked like fantastic prospects, but like every Draft, there was a chance they all wouldn’t end up being the stars the pundits expected them to be.
That free agent summit that NBA Commissioner David Stern told us was not going to happen apparently did happen over the weekend in Miami. Wade, James and Bosh supposedly met to discuss their futures and now the Heat are the favorite to land all three — this comes hours after the Chicago Bulls were presented as the leader … and there is sure to be a new leader before the day is out.
Sources close to the situation said Monday night that three of the biggest names in basketball — Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James — met over the weekend in Miami to seriously discuss their futures, with a focus on the increasingly plausible possibility of those three teaming up with Wade’s Heat.
Yet sources with knowledge of the meeting stressed to ESPN.com that James, while clearly intrigued by the possibility of forming a star-studded Miami trio with Wade and Bosh, has not yet committed to leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for South Beach.
One source did label Miami as the new frontrunner to land James in a package deal with Bosh and a re-signed Wade but also cautioned that James was “non-committal” with the start of free agency fast approaching.
Sources said James remains committed to fielding free-agent pitches from several teams when free agency officially opens Thursday at 12:01 a.m. ET, with the Chicago Bulls continuing to rank as a highly appealing destination and a return to Cleveland still figuring prominently in his thinking and with the Dallas Mavericks looming as an intriguing outsider.
Boston’s Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen provided the blueprint for teams around the league. If it works out, putting together three superstars, you can go from the lottery to playing for a championship in 10 months.
The Heat wouldn’t have to travel all the way from the lottery to get there, but they’d also have to make sure the chemistry worked out. It helps to have a coach like Doc Rivers to pull it all together, as the Celtics did when the Big 3 was organized by Danny Ainge.
But what if it didn’t work out?
What if the three guys you put together didn’t have the right chemistry?
What if the coach in place (Miami has Erik Spoelstra, but does anyone believe Pat Riley would allow the stars to align again and not take over as coach, the way he did when Shaquille O’Neal showed up to South Beach and the Heat won a title with he and Wade as it’s marquee stars) isn’t the right fit?
Again, what if it didn’t work out?
The Houston Rockets tried it once and saw the Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen and Hakeem Olajuwon Big 3 blow up in their face. Granted, they were not at the apex of their careers as Wade, James and Bosh are right now.
As a basketball experiment, it would be fascinating to see the Xs and Os brought to life by such remarkable talents. Who would initiate the action? How would their skills mesh? Where would the outside shooting come from? Then again, with double-teams demanded at three spots, simple math says there would be 2 ½ guys left mostly open much of the time.
As chemistry and psychology experiments, we could learn much about the dynamics of ego, the power of sacrifice and the ingredients needed to bind together such strong personalities. What would the pecking order be? We pretty much know who’d be No. 3, but how would Nos. 1 and 2 get divvied up? Would Wade have squatter’s rights because it was his town first? If so, what’s higher in the royal flow-chart than King?
As a financial experiment, we might finally get to see how the New York Yankees’ methodology of team-building works in pro basketball. The NBA largely has been protected from that by its salary cap, but this would be as close as a hoops team can get to opening the wallet for the best of the best.
Even if a spend-spend-spend approach isn’t quite what the Yankees do (they’re more like spend-spend-spend-spend to about the 25th power), it would force Miami and the rest of the league to find out what happens when most of the remaining players are brought in on minimum contracts. Would the Gee, Three! be surrounded by marginal talent? Or would they, on their reputations and expectations of success, lure enough solid teammates who’d take serious pay cuts to nail down rings themselves?
As a cultural experiment, seeing how such a galaxy of stars would shine away from the gyms would be fascinating, too. Would they hang together? Would they share off-court opportunities? In other words, would Bosh get a puppet and would Charles Barkley be elbowed out of the T-Mobile spots?
Finally, as a political and competitive experiment … well, here’s where things get dicey. We’d start by assuming that Cleveland and Toronto, abandoned by James and Bosh respectively, would be toast. At least for a (long) while. But what about other markets and their preference for building toward a championship the old-fashioned way? Could they compete with the instant mix of superstars, money and minimal stirring?
What, too, would it say about James and Wade as competitors? Would friendship and the idea of dominating the NBA together appeal to them more than butting heads year after year to determine who’s best? As great as the first Dream Team was, the NBA would have lost something if Magic Johnson and Larry Bird hadn’t been rivals, if Michael Jordan hadn’t locked both of them in his sights, and so on.
The Miami Plan would be swell in July. Certainly this July. I’m just not so sure about November through June.