The San Antonio Spurs, under the guidance of Gregg Popovich and owner Peter Holt, have long been known as one of most innovative and forward-thinking franchises in the NBA.
Leading the way
The Spurs were amongst the first franchises to embrace the potential of international players and, whilst the league has slowly moved towards an organization which relied upon superstar names dotted around the league, those down in San Antonio developed their own brand of seemingly effortless team basketball which recently saw them crowned NBA Champions for the fifth time back in June.
And this offseason saw the reigning champions lead the way again with the hire of Becky Hammon as assistant coach - the first ever permanent hire of a female to that position in NBA history.
The move to employ the former WNBA star has been met with widespread approval from onlookers and San Antonio Spurs veteran Matt Bonner was keen to voice his support for the move when I caught up with him at a FootLocker EU three-point event in London this week:
"I think it's great for our team. I think it's great for women to break that barrier you know to be the first female coach on the men's side," explained Bonner Wednesday.
"There is tons of women out there who work equally hard, if not harder, than men in basketball and know just as much. So hopefully more will get the opportunity to do more on the men's side because of her breaking that barrier," continued the 10-year Spurs veteran.
Becky Hammon's ground-breaking role
Hammon certainly brings a wealth of basketball experience to the role having played in the WNBA since 1999, and for San Antonio's female team the Stars since 2007 before being forced to retire with an ACL injury sustained in 2013.
The South Dakota native is a six-time WNBA All-Star, and leaves the league having amassed over 5,000 points during her career.
And, whilst she was only officially appointed to the role of assistant coach on the 5th of August 2014, Hammon was invited by coach Popovich and co to attend various Spurs practices and meetings as she underwent rehabilitation for her injury during the 2013-14 season. Bonner was keen to make it clear just what a good impression the 37 year-old made on the team during that time:
"Everybody on our team respects her, she's qualified, she was around the team a lot last year recovering from knee surgery - in practice, in workouts, so it should be a pretty smooth transition."
And with the campaign proving to be a very successful one for the Texas franchise - the Spurs of course defeating the Miami Heat 4-1 in the NBA Finals series - Hammon certainly brought with her good fortune on her initial arrival.
Bonner on new deal
Whilst the Spurs breaking new ground with the hire of Becky Hammon, as well as introducing legendary Euro coach Ettore Messina to the fold this offseason, they have been keen to avoid any major upheaval in their roster itself.
As such Matt Bonner was handed a new one-year deal and the Red Mamba opened up about the negotiations this summer:
"I guess a little bit," revealed Bonner when asked about whether he had any doubt that he would be remaining with the franchise he joined back in 2004.
"I'm not exactly like the number one priority or star player. I'm a role player and once free agency started I had other teams calling and I just had to keep telling them 'I'm going to wait for San Antonio to make a decision on me.' "
The ever self-deprecating Bonner may be right that he doesn't quite hold the position of a Tim Duncan, Manu Genobili or Tony Parker at the Spurs but he has become a popular player at the franchise and it wasn't long before they offered him a fresh deal:
"San Antonio took a couple of weeks to do their due diligence in the market and then came back and said 'yeah we want you back' so I was very happy about that," concluded Bonner.
As ever the San Antonio Spurs continue to mix experience with innovation and long may it continue.
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