Matt Bonner kind of disappeared from the San Antonio Spurs' rotation earlier this season, averaging just over nine minutes per game between early December and late January. As the campaign wore on, though, injuries cropped up and minutes required management, leading to Bonner being bumped up the bench and averaging a little over 16 minutes per game over his final 33 appearances.
He's nearly doubled that thus far in the 2013 NBA playoffs, because while Bonner doesn't necessarily rush to mind when you think of the league's premier post defenders — although he's better than you think, ranking among the league's top 50 players in points allowed per post-up possession defended over the last two seasons, according to Synergy Sports Technology's game-charting data — he's been called upon by coach Gregg Popovich to play a bigger role against the Los Angeles Lakers' frontcourt duo of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. By and large, Bonner's held his own, scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds in each of the series' first two games, and he even added three steals and a block in the Spurs' Game 2 win.
He's had to pay the price for it at times — like when Howard waylaid him with an unwhistled elbow on Wednesday — but he's held up better than some might have expected. So what's the key to Bonner's defensive work? The "Red Mamba" reached back to the '90s for the answer, according to Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News:
He made shots Wednesday, which is what he does best. But he mostly made Dwight Howard work when he didn’t make him mad.
Bonner called it, for those who would like to Google the phrase, “Chumbawamba defense.”
Personally, Buck, I'd prefer they'd Yahoo! the phrase. Or, y'know, they could just check out the explanation Bonner offered by NBA.com's Fran Blinebury:
The red-haired Bonner wore a sheepish smile and a red welt as he stood in front of his locker.
“You knock me down, I’ll keep getting up,” said Bonner.
Sure, those aren't exactly the right lyrics from "Tubthumping" — "I get knocked down / but I get up again / You're never gonna keep me down" — but they're close enough, and this is great enough, for that not to really matter.
Plus, it positions Bonner to be this year's Dwyane Wade, which will probably lead to the coolest New Balance commercial campaign of all time. Exciting times for cross-trainer enthusiasts worldwide, as
Professor Coach B (NOTE: I am very embarrassed that I got this wrong) keeps goading Howard into peeing the night away, with or without a whiskey drink, a vodka drink, a lager drink or a cider drink.