Bonner is a goner

Matt Bonner's days on the TTC are over after the Red Rocket was dealt by the Toronto Raptors to the...

Matt Bonner's days on the TTC are over after the Red Rocket was dealt by the Toronto Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday. (Toronto Sun File/Stan Behal)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

The Red Rocket has been jettisoned.

In a move that likely will stun and anger many Raptors fans, president/GM Bryan Colangelo announced yesterday that Matt Bonner, one of the most popular basketball players ever to play in Toronto, has been traded to the San Antonio Spurs, along with veteran forward Eric Williams and a 2009 second-round pick, for centre Rasho Nesterovic and cash considerations.

"Acquiring Rasho brings us an experienced presence at centre while not affecting our cap situation," Colangelo said. "He's a smart basketball player who will help address our needs, particularly on the defensive end of the floor."

To say Bonner was stunned by the news is an understatement. The Concord, N.H., native was getting ready to travel to London, Ont., today to take part in a Raptors-sponsored 3-on-3 tournament, when Colangelo called him with the news.

"My initial reaction was definitely bummed out," Bonner told the Toronto Sun. "I have to leave a city and a team that I love. I loved the coaches, the players, all the people in the front office, the fans ... I loved playing in Toronto. On the flip side, I'm going to a great organization that competes for the championship every year, and I get to play with great players."

The 7-foot Nesterovic was a first-round pick (17th overall) by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1998 and signed with San Antonio as a free agent in 2003. The eight-year NBA veteran has averaged 7.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks in 548 career games, 456 as a starter, and was a member of the Spurs' 2005 NBA championship team. The native of Ljubljana, Slovenia, has three more years left on a contract that will pay him $7.3 million US next season, $7.8 million in 2007-08 and $8.4 million in 2008-09.

Arguably the most beneficial part of the trade for the Raptors is San Antonio's willingness to take Williams off Toronto's hands. The New Jersey resident, who will make $4.3 million this season, was miffed that the New Jersey Nets traded him to the Raptors on Dec.17, 2004 in the Vince Carter trade and never felt comfortable with the Raptors. On more than one occasions, he requested a trade.

In two seasons with Toronto, Bonner appeared in 160 games, averaging 7.3 points and 3.6 rebounds, and was considered one of the best long-range shooters in the NBA.

But more than his ability to shoot, Bonner became a favourite with fans with his workmanlike approach to the game and the joy he demonstrated when playing. He was also a man of the people, so to speak, and would take time to talk to the fans as he made his way from his downtown apartment to the Air Canada Centre, either by foot or on the subway or streetcar.

Bonner insisted that he understands Colangelo's motivation for the trade and does not harbour ill feelings, adding that he always will hold Toronto dear in his heart and visit regularly.

"I have so many friends there now, they'd kick my butt if I didn't," he said. "I'm still young, my career's far from over. I may still end up back playing in Toronto some day."

In an unrelated move, the Raptors waived centre Robert Whaley, who was acquired by Toronto from Utah, along with forward Kris Humphries, for centre Rafael Araujo, on June 8.


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