If you doubt Matt Bonner's hand speed, just ask Kevin Durant about it. (AP)
In search of variation in their daily workout routine and new ways to burn fat and add stamina, plenty of NBA players have tried their hand at boxing during the offseason over the years — Andrew Bynum, Rudy Gay and David West have all been known to put the gloves on in summers past, and both Charlie Villaneuva and Rasheed Wallace (a well-studied student of the sweet science) have been seen doing it this offseason. Considering the emphasis it places on developing hand speed, hand-eye coordination, arm strength and an ever-deeper gas tank, it makes sense for players to consider it (or something like it, like MMA, as Roy Hibbert has done).
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a noted proponent of both things that make sense and things that increase nastiness, clearly buys into the value of his team training in fisticuffs — according to the great Mike Monroe at the San Antonio Express-News, Pop had most of his centers and forwards "working with San Antonio boxing icon [Jesse] James Leija in the weight training room, firing punch combinations that Leija caught with padded gloves." (Spurs star Tim Duncan, who started training with Leija a couple of years ago, "looked as if he had the makings of a potential pro fighter," to Monroe's eye.)
Note, however, that we said "most of," and not "all." From Monroe:
Conspicuously absent from the boxing workouts: Matt Bonner, who spent his post-practice time getting up dozens of 3-point shots.
"No boxing for me," Bonner said. "I grew up on the streets of Concord, New Hampshire. I'm quick with the fists. Quick with the one-two."
It's weird that Bonner's street-fighting youth is absent from his NBA.com bio, especially since that includes other, seemingly less pertinent information like that he "is an X-Files enthusiast [and] an avid cribbage player." But then, I guess the league doesn't necessarily always love to promote its players' rough-and-tumble backgrounds. It's better to emphasize sunnier stuff, like Bonner's vaunted love of sandwiches.
Still, it's good to know that Pop recognizes that when you've got a reserve forward who's basically the Vin Diesel in "Knockaround Guys" of the NBA, it's best to keep him cool and just let him shoot 3-pointers all day. You need to keep those hands occupied, lest a spirited drill with Tiago Splitter turn into a trip to the ICU, thanks to Bonner's famed registered weapons.