You know a coach is well respected, when you can see and witness how far a person’s influence impacts another.
San Antonio Spurs' Matt Bonner, who has one of the most deadliest three-point shots in the league, knows a lot about assistant coach Chip Engelland. Engelland, who has helped improved player's shooting stroke for many years, is credited as one of the best shooting coaches in the NBA.
Something Bonner is sure to know about.
Bonner,, while in the Philippines for the NBA Fit program, was asked to discuss his relationship with Engelland and he spoke well of how he helped Bonner and other Spurs’ players with their shooting from both the free throw line and beyond the arc.
“As assistant coach, Chip dabbles in everything,” said Bonner. “Shooting is his biggest role. I consider myself pretty close to him. We work on shooting and preparing for a game. He’ll go over game plans, personnel stuff, what I should focus on and strategies. Chip’s a great guy, I really like him. Last year, he helped out Tiago (Splitter) on his free throw shooting and he improved tremendously. When Richard Jefferson was with the Spurs, Chip transformed him from a mid-30 percent to a mid-40 percent three-point shooter. He knows what he’s talking about.”
He also discussed the near future for the Spurs’ title hopes and his role in particular.
"I have no idea what my role will be because it’s always evolving. I go through periods where I’m playing 25 to 30 minutes then I’m not getting in the game then sometimes, I start. What I do, it depends on what the team needs, if some guys are hurt or there’s a matchup advantage or if key players need rest, then I’ll be ready to play lots of minutes or sit on the bench. All my drills are game-specific, how I get my shots off in a game, picking and popping or just spotting up, maybe I’ll take one or two dribbles, make a pass or do a floater if I don’t have the shot outside.”
He believes that Spurs still have a two year window for “the Big 3” of Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Health of the team will basically decide how much longer the current version of the team will be among the NBA elite.
“Tim’s one of those timeless players,” he said. “To me, his game doesn’t diminish with his age as long as he’s healthy. The reasons why he’s good are fundamentals, his skill set and basketball IQ – these things don’t diminish with age. He’ll be the player for how ever long he wants to play. Manu’s getting older but he just signed a new two-year deal. Tony is younger than both of them so I expect the Big Three to continue playing with the Spurs at least two more years."
For Bonner individually, an increased focus on the defensive end could help in reducing the roller coaster swings in his playing minutes. He is a great asset beyond the arc, but without an offensive mismatch or if the shot isn’t falling his lack of presence on defense costs him critical minutes at the end of games. He would have been a great to play against Dwayne Wade as opposed to having Splitter chasing him around.
So Spurs’ fans, do you believe that an increased focus on defense would yield Bonner more playing time?