Thursday, July 17, 2008

Express News: Spurs sure Manu will play

LAS VEGAS — The official decision won’t come for another day or two, but the Spurs already know that guard Manu Ginobili will be suiting up for the defending Olympic champion Argentine basketball team in Beijing in August.

Spurs president of basketball operations and head coach Gregg Popovich — don’t make the mistake of calling him “Mr. President” if you don’t want to be yelled at — has been in daily cyber-communication with the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man Award winner. The e-mail he got from Ginobili on Wednesday left no doubt Ginobili will be playing in China.

“He played in his first full practice and said he had zero pain in the ankle afterwards,” Popovich said after watching the Spurs’ summer league team defeat the New York Knicks at Cox Pavilion here Wednesday afternoon. “So we know what the final decision is going to be. He’s playing.”

Ginobili’s jammed left ankle hampered him so severely during the Spurs’ playoff run, particularly in the Western Conference finals that Brent Barry, the former Spurs guard who will play next season for the Houston Rockets, quipped that the team had only “Ma” in the series, but not “Nu.”

An MRI test conducted by the Spurs medical staff on June 19, nearly three weeks after the Lakers eliminated the Spurs, revealed significant swelling remained in Ginobili’s left ankle.

After seeing those results, Popovich made it clear he would discourage Ginobili from playing in the Olympics unless the ankle improved significantly before the basketball competition in Beijing began.

The Spurs dispatched assistant trainer Chad Bergman to Argentina to supervise Ginobili’s workouts in advance of the Argentine team’s practices. Popovich trusts his ultra-competitive guard to protect the Spurs’ investment in his talent.

But he also understands how badly Ginobili wants to participate in Argentina’s defense of the gold medal it won in Athens four years ago.

And when the Argentine Olympic Committee announced that Ginobili had been chosen to carry the Argentine flag in the opening ceremonies?

“I knew it was all over,” Popovich said. “I e-mailed Manu something like ‘I’m sure that’s not going to affect your decision at all.’?”

The Spurs’ head coach is encouraged by Ginobili’s e-mailed assurances that the ankle feels strong, but he will be watching Argentina’s games in Beijing holding his breath.

“He said the ankle has felt great in his one-on-one workouts and in his personal training,” Popovich said. “He’s out of shape and says his calves are hurting from all the running he’s been doing, but the important thing is that he says the ankle feels good.”

An Argentine newspaper reports that Ginobili plans to test the ankle in game conditions next week when Argentina plays Spain in what is known in international basketball circles as a “friendly” game that will match the defending Olympic champs against the reigning World champs.

It likely won’t matter if Ginobili intends to limit his playing time in that one. If the game is close, count on his national pride to kick in during crunch time.

New ref bosses? An NBA insider whispered Wednesday that the league soon will announce that former referees Bernie Fryar and Joe Borgia will replace Ronnie Nunn as supervisor of referees.

Nunn has had the job since 2003, when he replaced Ed T. Rush.

He is expected to be reassigned to other duties.

The league is in severe spin control mode about its referees in the wake of the Tim Donaghy gambling mess.

Feel free to consider Nunn a scapegoat for the embarrassment the Donaghy incident has brought David Stern.


Anonymous said...

hooray! I think manu is really talented so I am glad he's playing :)

Scott said...

Yeah, I'm glad that he's going to be well enough to play. Sucks that it's only going to tire him out for next season, but it has to be what he really wants to do, deep down.

Manu was more responsible than anybody for Argentina winning the gold in 2004; it's only fitting that he should be back to defend the medal. And by 2012, Manu will be getting too old to really contribute on the Olympic level.

At least we will get to watch A Spur in this years Olympics, even if they're not playing for the USA.

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