Red Rocket turns back the clock

MIKE GANTER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

The Red Rocket appears to be back on the rails.

After a frustrating first four games of the season that saw Matt Bonner looking nothing like the fan favourite he was a year ago, the Bonner of '04 reappeared last night, albeit in yet another Raptors loss.

Coming off the bench, Bonner played a season-high 30-plus minutes, also hitting season highs in points with 15, rebounds with eight, steals with four and three-pointers with two.

For four games, little seemed to be going right for the hard-working and personable red-head. But last night it all seemed to click.

"I just tried to go out and be active and control some of the things I can control which is what I've been trying to do,' Bonner said. "Playing hard, setting good screens, boxing out, rebounding, trying to get deflections, loose balls, that kind of thing.

"The rest just fell in place."

To put his turnaround in perspective, Bonner's 15 points last night were nine more than he had amassed in the first four games of the season in about 10 minutes less playing time.

"I definitely went through a little slump," he said, "but hopefully I'm over it. Hopefully, I'm back to my old self."

As frustrating as the first four games had to be for Bonner, he said he was encouraged constantly by his teammates and coaches.

"My teammates and coaching staff ... they know what I can do and how I can play and they just gave me the support I needed," he said.

As for the 30:38 playing time, Bonner said there was no way he saw that coming.

"No, but I'm ready to play, two minutes, 30 minutes, it doesn't matter to me," he said.

"I'm just thankful for every second I get in the NBA."

Head coach Sam Mitchell, the man who gave Bonner that lengthy workout, said it was a case of Bonner earning the minutes.

"I thought Matt played well, he shot the ball well, he had eight rebounds and four steals," Mitchell said.

At the very least, Bonner's turnaround gives Mitchell one less thing he has to worry about.


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