NBA PM: Ginobili Discusses Last Year’s Woes
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Last season was a resurgence for the San Antonio Spurs in which they showed that they are still very much one of the best teams in the league. They lost just two games en route to their fifth Western Conference championship in franchise history; they were just a possession away from beating the Miami HEAT in the NBA Finals.
They looked just like the Spurs’ championship teams of the past. Crisp, efficient and well-rounded offensively. Defensively they were quite solid, much improved from year’s past where their defense had slipped.
The only glaring difference: Manu Ginobili, one of the greatest international players to ever come from abroad and a catalyst in the Spurs’ previous four championship runs, never looked like himself.
It wasn’t just in the playoffs either, it was really all season long. Ginobili averaged just 11.8 points a game in the regular season, his lowest scoring output since his rookie season.
It wasn’t until the NBA Finals that his struggles really started to hurt the Spurs. Before then, the improvement from Danny Green, Gary Neal and Kawhi Leonard was enough to make up for the decline in Ginobili’s game. But as Green and Neal faded, the Spurs looked to Ginobili to recapture his Hall of Fame form – something he was able to do in Game 5.
With the series hanging in the balance at 2-2, Ginobili erupted for his best game of the series with 24 points and 10 assists. It helped give the Spurs a 3-2 advantage on their way back to Miami, with two shots to get what has become an elusive fifth ring.
Ginobili remained in the starting lineup, but Game 5 turned out to be his last great game. He had a combined 12 turnovers in Game 6 and 7, earning the role of scapegoat as the Spurs came up just short of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Now that Ginobili is a couple of months removed from the disappointment that comes with being so close to winning the championship but ultimately not getting it done, he’s able to talk truthfully about the root of his issue from last season.
Ginobili missed the nine of the last 10 games of the regular season due to a hamstring and 22 games overall. Yes, part of his drop off should be attributed to being 35 years old at the time (he turned 36 in July), but injuries also had as much to do with it, if not more.
“A lot of times this year I’ve been told I look weak, vulnerable, fragile,” Ginobili admitted in an interview with Argentinean paper La Nacion. “I have no reason to hide. I’m no less of a man for feeling that way or for having played poorly. Yes, so what’s the problem? I will be criticized? Fine. I swear I gave everything I had and I tried to win, like I always have. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. I won’t blush or feel embarrassed for saying it. I felt vulnerable and I expressed it. I didn’t have a reason not to. It’s true. It was the first time I’ve felt that way.”
Injuries have really taken away from Ginobili the last two seasons, not just last year. In 2011-12 he missed 32 out of 66 regular season games, once again failing to look like his former self.
“Having to keep rehabilitating and getting in shape after injuries,” Ginobili said when asked what was weighing on him the most. “Having to play with the parking brake on because I’m coming back from a muscle strain. That wore me out and it was hard.
“I have a great time when I’m healthy and playing, I feel lucky playing with the team and coaching staff I play for. But the physical problems drained me.”
Ginobili re-signed with the Spurs this offseason for two years, $14.5 million – presumably his last contract. Whereas he used to carry as much responsibility as anyone on the team, his duties have since been lightened with Tony Parker carrying most of the burden, Green’s development and now Marco Belinelli joining the fold as well. His minutes will be managed carefully by Gregg Popovich in hopes that he can finally get through a season, and into a postseason most importantly, without any injuries prohibiting his performance.
Sanders Extension Official: Larry Sanders officially signed his four-year, $44 million extension with the Milwaukee Bucks today, making him the second member of the 2010 draft class to earn an extension before hitting free agency.
It's official..can't believe I've been granted this opportunity to represent Milwaukee for the next 5… http://t.co/4843aAjc0K
— Nappy G. (@LarrySanders) August 20, 2013
Sanders’ deal will kick in after the 2013-14 season, in which he will make $3.05 million. Starting in 2014-15, Sanders will make $9.5 million, with 15 percent increases each season until the final year of the contract (2017-18), when he will make $12.49 million.
Sanders’ big pay day comes as a result of averaging 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in his third year in the league. Sanders came on strong towards the end of the season, looking like one of the most promising big men in the league. That’s why Milwaukee opted to lock him up now rather than waiting and playing the restricted free agency game next summer.
With Monta Ellis now a Dallas Maverick and Brandon Jennings a Detroit Piston, Sanders becomes the face of the franchise. With a bigger salary comes bigger expectations, but Sanders’ best days certainly appear to be ahead of him.
This season he will have to adjust to playing with an almost completely new supporting cast and a new system as Larry Drew has taken over as head coach. The Bucks were 38-44 last year, good for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Many are expecting a drop off based off what they lost, but if Sanders can take another step forward, at the very least they could remain in the mix for one of the final playoff spots.
Bargnani Out For EuroBasket: Andrea Bargnani, who was acquired by the New York Knicks this offseason in a trade with the Toronto Raptors, originally planned to play for his home country of Italy in this summer’s EuroBasket tournament.
The news was first reported by Jared Zwerling of ESPN.
Bargnani was the Knicks’ big offseason acquisition. While the mainstream public questioned the move, the hope is that Bargnani, a perimeter-oriented big man who can score in a variety of ways, provides an added dimension offensively that helps ease some of the offensive load from Carmelo Anthony’s shoulders. Throughout his career Bargnani has always been asked to be one of the top two scoring options, but now he’ll have the luxury of being able to play off of other primary scorers.
The Knicks open up training camp late next month. Bargnani has been dealing with pneumonia since early August, but should be fine for the start of camp.