Monday, September 29, 2008

Express News: Pop says Manu will miss first month of regular season

Jeff McDonald: Pop says Manu will miss first month of regular season

For the first time, the Spurs have been able to quantify the cost of Manu Ginobili's offseason ankle surgery.

The star guard has been ruled out for all of November, and could miss as many as 25 games to start the regular season, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

"Manu will be out 20 to 25 games -- until mid-December at the latest," Popovich said Monday, the day before the Spurs open training camp.

As for the earliest Ginobili might suit up?

"It won't be in November," Popovich said.

Ginobili, 31, initially injured a ligament in his left ankle during the playoffs last season, and re-aggravated the malady while playing for Argentina in last month's Olympic Games. He underwent arthroscopic surgery Sept. 3 to correct a posterior impingement in the ankle, and at the time gave a timetable of eight-to-12 weeks for recovery.

The optimistic end of that timetable would have had Ginobili ready in time to start the regular season. For now, it appears the Spurs will approach Ginobili's return even more cautiously than that.

However long Ginobili is out, the loss is sure to have a noticeable effect on the Spurs. Ginobili averaged a team-high and career-best 19.5 points per game last season, en route to earning NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors.

Still, Ginobili arrived at Spurs headquarters Monday in high spirits. He joked to reporters that he now knows more about ankle surgery than he ever wanted to know.

"I feel good," said Ginobili, who wore no brace or any other support on his repaired left ankle. "I'm not playing or doing anything to put it at risk. But walking around, it just feels great."

Even Popovich was in a good mood Monday, despite the prospect of missing his leading scorer for perhaps the first quarter of the season. He called the timing of Ginobili's injury and subsequent surgery a blessing in disguise.

"Had he not hurt it in the Olympics, he probably would have done it 15, 25, 35 games into the season," Popovich said. "It could be a blessing that he's gotten operated on. They've gone in there and cleaned things out. His ankle will be in better shape than it's been in years, I would imagine."

As much as it sucks for Manu to miss a quarter of the season, I'd have to echo Pop's sentiments.

If Manu hadn't played in China, then nobody knows if he would've addressed the ankle in the offseason more than simply keeping off of it. Then he probably starts hitting the gym in October, takes the fall in December, and is out for the heart of the season. We all witnessed last season how well the Spurs stand to survive the playoffs without a healthy Ginobili.

It's not a best case scenario by any means, but at least the ankle has now been addressed. The Spurs will need to survive through the part of the season they are typically known for keeping pace anyways, and they will now have a chance to test out some much needed youth in Udoka, Mason, Hill, and possibly Stoudemire. And in true 6th man fashion, Manu coming back late may help revitalize the team in a time where they have historically lost focus.

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