Charlie Bury: How would you describe your NBA draft experience?
Matt Bonner: Grueling. First you have the Pre-draft camp in Chicago, and then you go right from there to having to workout for a different team in a different city basically every single day leading up to the draft.
Charlie Bury: What were those workouts like? Who were some of the guys you went up against?
Matt Bonner: Some workouts were four big men. Some workouts were two guards and two big men. I cant even remember who the heck I went up against. Its all a blur.
Charlie Bury: What do you think NBA teams can learn about a guy by working him out that they dont already know after watching him play four years of college basketball?
Matt Bonner: I think they can put them in situations that try to expose their weaknesses. You know, if they see a guy in college basketball playing on the block their whole career they can put them in drills on the perimeter. They can try to see how versatile guys are; try to see what their weaknesses are. The opposite is true if they see a big guy playing out on the perimeter, they might put him in a workout with some bangers and throw him on the block, see how he does.
Charlie Bury: What was draft night like for you? Where did you watch the draft?
Matt Bonner: I watched it here in Concord, New Hampshire at a local restaurant with friends and family. It was weird because I didnt know for sure if I was going to get drafted. Being a late second round pick .I knew I did really well in all the workouts, I knew I had a good college career, but at the same time what was going to happen wasnt for sure. So when my name got called it was an exhilarating feeling. Everybody went nuts. It was great.
Charlie Bury: When you watch the draft on ESPN, they dont give a whole lot of coverage to the second round. What actually happens when you get drafted? Did you get a call from the Raptors?
Matt Bonner: No, I just saw it on TV. I think I talked to (the Raptors) that same night or the next morning. Pretty soon.
Charlie Bury: What did they say on the phone?
Matt Bonner: Nothing really. They just said they looked forward to getting me into summer league and thats about it.
Charlie Bury: What was that first summer league like? After all the emotions of getting drafted, what was it like to be back on the court all of a sudden?
Matt Bonner: Yeah thats another thing. You dont any time to rest because you got summer league a couple weeks after (the draft). They flew me down to IMG in Bradenton, Florida. The whole team was pretty much down there working out like two or three days after the draft. I was basically just really excited to be playing with an NBA jersey on, even though it was just the summer league.
Charlie Bury: After that summer it was decided you were going to play in Italy. Was that something the team decided, or your agent?
Matt Bonner: I think that it was a combination of both.
Charlie Bury: What was it like playing in Italy?
Matt Bonner: I loved Italy. On the court was great. The Basketball was great, I loved my teammates. I played in the top league over there so it was great competition. Getting my money was another story.
Charlie Bury: Yeah I was just going to ask you about that. The team had some financial troubles right?
Matt Bonner: Yeah they went bankrupt at the end of the year and I never got paid for the last three months of my contract.
Charlie Bury: Wow. Is that something that happens a lot over in Europe?
Matt Bonner: Yeah it happens. We were the only team that didnt get paid completely that year in our league. I wouldnt say its a common thing, but it definitely happens to a few teams every year.
Charlie Bury: You got pretty sick over there too didnt you?
Matt Bonner: Yeah I got salmonella poisoning at the end of the season. I had 104 temperatures, I was hallucinating. I didnt eat anything for five days. I lost 19 pounds in five days.
Charlie Bury: It wasnt the Italian food was it?
Matt Bonner: (Laughs) No I dont think it was the Italian food. I dont know what it was.
Charlie Bury: Did you ever consider playing your whole career in Europe, where you could be the go-to guy?
Matt Bonner: Yeah I definitely considered it. Not only that, but you can make more money over there then making the rookie minimum in the NBA, you know?
Charlie Bury: Right. How tough was it to give up that guaranteed money for a non-guaranteed shot?
Matt Bonner: It was tough for a little while, but then I just realized that my dream was to play in the NBA, not to play in Europe. Not that theres anything wrong with Europe, I loved playing over there, there are some great players. But you know, you dont grow up watching Larry Bird and hoping youre going to be playing in Italy. I decided to roll the dice financially to go after my dream.
Charlie Bury: A guy from your draft class, Jason Kapono was quoted before the draft as saying If I moved to Croatia, grew a beard. and changed my name to Vladimir Kaponovic, I would be a lottery pick. Did you share any of Jasons feelings about all the hype that a lot of the European players get ?
Matt Bonner: Yeah. I mean, that definitely happens. Not all the time, there are great European players in the NBA. I wouldnt say its unfair. The same thing happens to some US players that get hyped up and dont pan out. It doesnt really matter who you are, some people get hyped that dont deserve it.
Charlie Bury: Tell me a little bit about your off-season regimen. What do you do in the summertime to improve your game?
Matt Bonner: I just work hard. I dont really take too much time off. I took a few weeks off this year. Im already back working to full speed. I just try to take on things and add it to my game for the next season. Im lucky I have a younger brother who plays at UMASS which is two hours away. Plus hes 7 feet tall. So I go and play competitively with him all the time when hes home and I go down to play with his teammates 5 on 5.
Charlie Bury: It must have been sweet for you to see Florida win the national championship.
Matt Bonner: Yeah it was awesome. Youre a Gator too right?
Charlie Bury: Nah, thats the owner of the site, Jonathan Givony.
Matt Bonner: Oh ok. My agent called and said you guys were calling and said you were a Gator.
Charlie Bury: What was the tournament like for you? Where did you watch the game?
Matt Bonner: I watched the championship game in the locker room. It was a team thing. We all went to the Maple Leafs game and once that was over we all went down to the locker room and watched the game.
Charlie Bury: Do you still keep in contact with Billy Donovan and your Florida teammates?
Matt Bonner: Yeah definitely. Whenever we play each other during the year I see (Udonis Haslem and David Lee)
Charlie Bury: Tell me a little about Toronto. What did you know about the city and the Raptors organization before they drafted you?
Matt Bonner: Not much. I didnt know what to expect. I had a preconceived notion of what a Canadian city would be like, but Torontos pretty much the opposite. Its very diverse, people are very friendly. Huge city, a lot bigger then I thought it was going to be. Theres a lot of stuff to do.
Charlie Bury: You have a pretty internationally diverse roster. Do you ever talk to Calderon and Hoffa Arujo about international ball?
Matt Bonner: Yeah, all the time, all the time. Brazil has a league and Spain obviously has a great league.
Charlie Bury: Were you a little surprised that more guys like yourself who have had success playing overseas didnt get a call from Jerry Colangelo or an invite team to USAs training camp?
Matt Bonner: I dont know. I mean thats kind of like a two way street because we have Americans that are used to playing international basketball and have been successful playing international basketball because they play in Europe. But then you look individually at who the best players are, and its not the same people you know?
Charlie Bury: Yeah. I mean obviously if Kobe Bryant played for Maccabi Tel Aviv he would still be a great player. I was just kind of surprised more guys like Anthony Parker, Charlie Bell and yourself werent thought of considering how much USA basketball has struggled with the international game in the last few years.
Matt Bonner: Yeah. I think it just shows how different the styles of play are, from international play to the NBA. You take away defensive three seconds, you get more guys in the paint. If you can shoot, pass and dribble the ball, it makes a big difference.
Charlie Bury: I dont know if you have time to follow a lot of college basketball, but from what you saw this year, who are some guys that you think might be able to help the Raptors in this years draft?
Matt Bonner: Um .I dont even know to be honest with you.
Charlie Bury: Right now weve got you taking Brandon Roy from Washington.
Matt Bonner: Oh yeah Im a fan of his. Yeah hes good. I watched him in the tournament.
Charlie Bury: Alright thanks a lot Matt, have a good off-season.
Matt Bonner: Alright thanks, bye.