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Manu Ginobili

“One More Run”, Pt. 17: San Antonio Spurs Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Tony Parker, SG Danny Green, SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Tim Duncan, C Thiago Splitter
Key Bench Players: SG Manu Ginobili, PG Cory Joseph, SG Marco Belinelli, PF Boris Diaw, PF Matt Bonner
Offseason Additions: Marco Belinelli
Offseason Subtractions: G Gary Neal
FACT OR FICTION: The Spurs have enough in them for their fifth consecutive “one more run”?

FACT. But that’s not the real question.
FACT OR FICTION: The 2013-2014 Spurs can’t win a title unless Kawhi Leonard takes a leap.
FACT. We saw a little what the Spurs look like with Kawhi Leonard as a borderline All-Star-caliber player in the NBA Finals last season. He dropped 15 points, snatched 11 boards and 2 steals on a .513/.248/.702 slash line in the most pressure packed moments of the season. Leonard did all of this while serving up premium defense, maximum concentration and an eerie robotic calm that belied the fact that he hadn’t even turned 22. He wasn’t the best Spur in the series–that honor goes to the extraordinary Tim Duncan–but he wasn’t that far behind.… Read more...

NBA Finals Wrap-Up: Some legacies defined, others left alone

I’m sweating blood, crying stomach acid and secreting brain fluid through my pores. A completely normal reaction considering the seven game gladiatorial brawl we just witnessed over the past two weeks.
Game 7 concluded Thursday night with an emphatic finish, a 48 minute slugfest living up the symphonic excellence the previous six games had composed before it. With less than a minute on the board, we had a two point ball game with both teams trading blows like the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin applying finisher after finisher to no avail. It seemed that in a series where the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs countered each other game to game to game to game, that still no team had an edge over the other.
Still, at the concluding bell, I wonder: did the best team truly win? Or was the dramatic, heart-rendering finish of Game 6 so emotionally resonant that we’ve all tricked ourselves into believing that Miami’s had the slightly upper hand? Was it all an illusion born of adrenaline and the singular greatness of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade?… Read more...

NBA Finals: Game 6–A Survivor’s Tale

“I’m going to the gym. I’m all jacked up.”–MAMBINO Contributor El Mariachi, 12:17 am Eastern Time
We didn’t watch Game 6 everyone–we survived it.
It’s been echoed over and over again all night and all morning. It’s not hyperbole: this was one of the greatest Finals games ever. Off the top of my head, only a handful of games are in it’s company over the last 30 years: Mavericks-Heat Game 5 in 2006, Bulls-Jazz Game 6 in 1998, Pistons-Lakers Game 6 in 1988 and Lakers-Celtics Game 4 in 1987. There are others, of course, but there’s no doubt about it: last night’s epic Game 6 already ranks in the Top 10 of greatest Finals games ever, perhaps even penetrating the sacred sphere of greatest contests in American sports history. It was that good.
It’s not just the dramatic finish and the toe-curling proximity to which San Antonio was to a championship, but rather the ebbs and flows of such an excellently played contest that really makes this game stand out. Even the last two Game 7s (Boston/LA in 2010 and SA/Detroit in 2005) lacked the 48 minutes–make that 53 minutes–of artistry that last night’s bout had. Celtics-Lakers was a sloppy affair, with both teams shooting poorly, Kobe Bryant chucking away a 6-24 night and the final combined score ticking in at just over 160 combined points. Spurs/Pistons had the same feeling of inertia, slogging towards a 4th quarter that was largely out of reach for Detroit. Game 6 was dynamic from beginning to end, with each team playing crisply, trading blows and fighting to a standstill up until Bosh emphatically landed the controversial finishing blow. This game was so finely played, with so many featured players, that it’s hard to remember one seminal moment in a myriad of them. That’s what sets last night’s game apart–painting a masterpiece without muddling the colors. … Read more...

Same Old Spurs (emphasis on "Old") — San Antonio Spurs Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Tony Parker, SG Manu Ginobili, SF Stephen Jackson, PF Boris Diaw, C Tim Duncan 

Key Bench Players: SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Tiago Splitter, SG Danny Green, F Matt Bonner, G Nando de Colo, SG Gary Neal, PG Patty Mills, G Cory Joseph

Key Additions: G Nando de Colo 

Key Departures: SG James Anderson

New NBA season on the horizon, same ol’ Spurs.  Gregg Popovich still patrols the sideline, Tony Parker still runs the offense, Manu Ginobili still provides unlimited #SWAG in the 4th quarter, and Tim Duncan still mans the paint, quarterbacks the D, and goes glass at least once a game.  This is essentially the same Spurs team as last season’s team, only one year older.  

This is not to say that being the same team as last year is a bad thing.  Last year’s team won a league-high 50 games, was the #1 seed in the West, steamrolled through the first two rounds in the playoffs, and gave Pop some nasty in taking the first two games in the Conference Semi’s, until the Thunder simply found another gear and the Spurs could not keep up.

So what can we expect if the Spurs in 2012 are going to be a lot like the Spurs in 2011.  Well, we can assume they will monitor the minutes of Duncan (36 years old) and Ginobili (35 years old) even more so than last year.  They’ll shoot a lot of 3’s and score a lot of points, and a crew of unheralded bench reserves (Danny Green, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, de Colo, et al.) will alternate as the hot hand from distance.  Tony Parker will have more freedom to attack, while  Kawhi Leonard will continue to develop into one of the better two-way players in the NBA.  Steven Jackson and Boris Diaw will become more comfortable in the Spurs system.  The Spurs will win a lot of regular season games.

“Key additions” is a misnomer for this preview, as the only “new” player on the roster is 25 year-old Frenchman Nando de Colo, a 6’5″ shooting guard who played for Valencia in the Spanish ACB League last season.  De Colo was underwhelming in the Olympics, looking like a competent guard who is above-average in most facets of the game but may not have one “NBA skill” that defines him. In the small Olympic sample, de Colo looked like just a decent athlete, a good but not superb ballhandler, a good shooter but not a sniper by any means.  The lack of an NBA skill may mute de Colo’s overall effectiveness in year one.  Regardless, the Spurs could use some fresh legs, and de Colo should receive some backcourt minutes behind fellow Frenchman Tony Parker, Ginobili, Gary Neal, and Danny Green.

With the Lakers and Clippers both adding reinforcements and the Thunder improving from within, the lack of more “Key additions” could be a telling theme for the Spurs as they are passed in the Conference hierarchy.  The most important players on the roster — guys like Ginobili and Duncan and Parker, and even Jackson and Diaw — these are players who are what they are, players in or past their prime who will not play beyond the level they have been at for the past few years.  Given that, the Spurs desperately need their young guns to improve.  

Kawhi Leonard is a 6’7, 225 lb. wing who will be 21 this season.  8 points and 5 rebounds was a nice line as a rookie, but Leonard needs to come into camp with a more consistent jumper and a more refined offensive game in order to progress into something more.  6’11” big Tiago Splitter will be 27 this season; is he anything more than the 9 point/5 rebound guy he was last yeRead more...

Manu Ginobili – Greatness Wasted or Greatness Fulfilled?

Against some of the best players the United States had to offer, Manu Ginobili, then a mere one-time NBA champion, far from the man thrice coronated with crowns of locker room champagne, looks coldly across the floor in Athens, Greece. The Argentinian national team had stood toe to toe with the number one ranked team in the world, taking a double digit lead early in the semifinal matchup. The US team had looked shaky during the entire tournament, falling twice in pool play, doubling the losses that the United States basketball program had ever endured in Olympic play. Ginobili, then 27 years old, only added to their misery. Over and over again, he killed the US with back breaking jump shots and momentum stopping lay-ins. Manu ended the semifinal with a game-high 29 points, as Argentina took down the highly-vaunted United States men’s basketball team. Two days later, he would score 16 points, with 6 assists and 6 rebounds, to lead Argentina to its first Olympic basketball medal, Gold. Ginobili wasn’t just the best player on his team – for two weeks, he was the best basketball player in the world. The question is: could have been the best player in the NBA as well?

Of course one two week stretch of hot games doesn’t officially anoint you the best ball player on the planet. But Manu certainly has the resume to be named amongst the greats of his generation. Coming into the NBA in 2002 at the age of 25, Ginobili had an immediate impact on the San Antoio Spurs. They won the title behind the Finals MVP play of Tim Duncan, but also on the backs of retiring Hall of Fame center David Robinson, second-year point guard Tony Parker and on 27 minutes, 9 points, 4 boards and 3 assists per game from Manu Ginobili. He went on to two All-Star games, two All-NBA Third Team spots and of course, two more titles in a career that’s still ongoing. He owns a lifetime NBA slash line of 15/4/4 on 45/37/83 shooting percentages, which is great, but certainly not jaw-dropping. However, keep in mind that he’s done this starting only 346 out of 667 possible games in an average of only 28 minutes.

Manu’s playoff slash line is largely the same as his regular season performance, but looking at his prime – 2004 to 2010 – he averaged 18 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the postseason, including an unbelievable 21/6/4 in the 2005 playoffs, which ended in his second NBA title.

Ginobili, regardless of the slightly less than elite statistical line, has remained one of the toughest and most competitive wing players of his era. He’s gone through a decade of duels with Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash and Chris Paul, and has emerged from these battles with the reputation of being one of the most cut-throat, stone cold fourth quarter killers in the entire league. In the words of Kobe Bean in the documentary Kobe Doin’ Work, “that’s a bad man.”

However, watching Manu in these London games, and knowing his skillset and pedigree, I’m left wondering how truly good he could have been if not for the restrictions of his role on the San Antonio Spurs. Going back to his career stat line, Ginobili has been limited to only 28 minutes per game, coming off the bench for nearly half of his games. He’s played in a system predicated on ball-sharing, a bevy of long-range shooters and a dominant big man in Duncan. Combining everything we know about Manu, his reputation around the league and his propensity to step up in big moments, could he have been a top five player? Not just in a year, or in a pRead more...