FOLLOWING San Antonio's loss to the Miami Heat in Game Seven of the 2013 NBA Finals, a lot of people think that the best days of the were done.
Don't tell that to Matt Bonner.
One of the more popular role players in the NBA, Bonner believes that this generation of Spurs led by Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker can still contend for the championship in the years to come.
“Even in my first year, people say we are too old and every year, we prove them wrong,” said Bonner, who is in Manila for an NBA outreach program. “We win a lot of regular season games and always in contention in the playoffs.”
Bonner said the Spurs' advancing age has not diminished the skills of their core.
“We don’t listen to what other people say. Look at Tim Duncan, he is fundamentally sound, high basketball IQ, those things don’t diminish with age. As long as we are healthy, we have a good chance of getting back (in the Finals),” Bonner said.
Bonner has also become an integral part of the successful Spurs program, thanks to his three-point shooting and blue-collar work ethic developed in the years he grew up trying to emulate Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird.
“I grew up watching Larry Bird from New Hampshire. A 6-8, 6-9 guy who can shoot threes, tremendous work ethic. I want to work hard like Larry Bird and shoot like Larry Bird,” said Bonner.
Bonner said one of those helping him polish his three-point shooting is Chip Engelland, an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs who once played for the Philippine national team as a naturalized player during the Northern Consolidated (NCC) days in the eighties.
“He is a great guy and I really enjoy having him in the coaching staff. He’s also helping me in my shooting,” Bonner said.
Bonner said that being traded to the Spurs in 2006 from the Toronto Raptors was the “biggest break” of his career.
“I love playing in Toronto. My initial reaction about being traded is bummed out because I love playing with Toronto so much, I love the fans and the city," he said.
"But it dawned on me that I was traded to the most respected, successful organization in the world. It is just awesome to be with the Spurs all this year and I want to stay here,” he added.
Bonner said the winning tradition has become part of the Spurs' culture.
“Everybody buys into the team concept. In the organization, it’s the team first on and off the court. The unselfishness, we win as a team, and we lose as a team. Everybody’s attitude is what can I do to help win the game. Everybody is sacrificing for the team,” said Bonner.