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Meet first-year fan favourite turned second-year bum, Matt “The Red Rocket” Matt Bonner.

During the 2004-2005 season he was a deadly catch-and-shooter, regularly hitting long two’s and three’s. This season he fakes the jumper, drives to the basket and clanks it off the iron. Not coincidentally, his popularity has followed his field-goal percentage downwards.

What happened to the Red Rocket?

Raptors fans can see that Bonner is trying to improve. If you compare his stats this year with last year’s you can see that he has effectively upgraded a few of his skills, including free-throw shooting (+4%) and defence (+.15 steals, +.17 blocks). He’s clearly trying to add to his offensive repertoire, too, although clearly it’s not working yet. Sure, he’ll never be a LeBron James (would we call him “Bon-Bon” or “Matt LeBon”?), but he may have potential to be more than a role player on the Raptors. I think Head Coach Sam Mitchell appreciates that Bonner is working for a bigger role and rewards him with minutes because of his effeort.

Let’s call this season a case of sophomore jinx and forecast Bonner’s contributions for ‘06-’07. Definitely, he has to do more catch-and-shoot. If Mike James is gone we’ll need the Rocket’s long-bombs even more. If he’s going to keep driving to the hoop, he’d better improve his finish off the dribble. And he’s got to bring back the showboating dunks and, oh yeah, better defence.

So, Raptors fans, keep riding the Rocket. It’s the better way.

By Jeff Wong @


Fri 04/14/06, 2:47 am EST

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