Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Examiner: Spurs, Ginobili enter offseason with questions

Michael Chartier

The San Antonio Spurs face a crossroads entering the 2009-2010 NBA offseason. Besides coming off a first-round exit from the NBA playoffs for the first time in the Tim Duncan era (when playing), uncertainty surrounds the status of Manu Ginobili.

Ginobili said he expects to be 100 percent after a right ankle stress fracture caused him to miss the final six games of the regular season and the playoffs. Still, San Antonio has twice shelved contract negotiations with the shooting guard who has only one year left on his current deal. The soon-to-be-32-year-old All-Star recently told the Argentine press that the idea of San Antonio trading him "could happen."

Head coach Gregg Popovich, however, while not ruling it out completely also called it unlikely.

"I can't imagine a scenario where he would be traded," Popovich told reporters.

Despite Duncan turning 33 this past April and some questioning his general health, the two-time league MVP, three-time Finals MVP and four-time NBA Champion was close enough to "playoff Timmy" to suggest that adding a piece or two is all that stands between him and his fifth ring.

While some fans may be hoping for a big free agent splash or draft day blockbuster, the biggest acquisition for the Spurs will be the healthy return of Ginobili. The seven-year NBA veteran doesn't boast the kind of eye-popping career stats of a Kobe and Lebron or even oft-injured stars like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. But when comparing the best twos and threes in the NBA, who is really more explosive or effective than Manu?

If you need a reminder, here's what they were saying just a few years ago.

An ESPN article ranked Ginobili second in career regular season winning percentage among the likes of Bob Cousy, Bill Russell and Shaquille O'Neal, coming in behind only Larry Bird. His playoff winning percentage ranked only below Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

In Spike Lee's movie Kobe Doin' Work, Bryant referred to Ginobili as "a bad boy." In case you don't know, that means the 2009 Finals MVP thinks he's really good.

Ginobili brings intangibles that are hard to measure in statistics alone. And unlike the aforementioned foursome, he's not a volume shooter. He's a deceptively strong, athletic slahser that finishes at the rim, shoots the three and defends at an elite level. His greatest asset, however, may be that he makes the players around him better -- a quality associated with the very best in the game. In the discussion of best wing players this decade, Manu has to be somehwere in the top five.

Despite All-NBA point guard Tony Parker just entering his prime and the presumed good health of Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs will once again fly under the radar. It may seem like a while to a ravenous fan base and so-called experts, but the Spurs did win the title just two seasons ago.

Granted, San Antonio doesn't enjoy "team to beat" status as they did from 2004 to 2008. But signing a contributing free agent in July or finding a hidden gem in any one of their three second-round draft picks could quickly tilt the discusssion back to the Spurs. But as Popovich ominously foreshadowed before last year's playoffs, San Antonio is going nowhere without Manu.

No comments:

Sports Top Blogs