NBA PM: Manu Ginobili’s Stunt Double
VIDEO OF THE DAY – Dwight Howard Pt. 2
Dwight Howard talks about joining the Houston Rockets and the keys to living up to the high expectations that have come with his arrival.Watch More Video Here
The San Antonio Spurs were in a position to be major players in free agency this offseason as they had ample cap space at their disposal. However, after last year’s run to the NBA Finals, they opted to use most of it to give Tiago Splitter a well-deserved raise and re-sign Manu Ginobili.
Jeff Pendergraph was brought in to replace DeJuan Blair, but Blair had already fallen out of the rotation and it may be tough for Pendergraph to earn a consistent role. The only major change they made was replacing Gary Neal, who left for the Milwaukee Bucks, with veteran swingman Marco Belinelli, who spent last year with the Chicago Bulls.
Neal was another one of the Spurs’ patented diamonds in the rough; someone who was available to everyone else, but they were the only ones willing to give him a chance. He blossomed into a consistent sharpshooter for them, but the Spurs were willing to withdraw their qualifying offer and let him walk because Belinelli was more than a viable replacement. He could actually end up being an upgrade.
“I think he’s a very underrated player,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said to HOOPSWORLD when asked about Belinelli. “I consider him to have the same mindset as Manu [Ginobili], which means I’m going to have to be patient as I’ve learned with Manu. Manu taught me to just shut up and let him play a little bit more which was a good thing. Marco is going to be the same way. They have the same passion for the game, they have no fear, which most of the time is good; sometimes it can bite you, but I’d rather have that than someone who is timid. His passion for the game and his ability to want to be there in big moments is special.”
“He learned too late,” Ginobili joked. “I should have come like with Marco now. He didn’t know how to look away when I got here, that’s a pity. We paved the way for a lot of guys now that I think, Marco is a lucky man.”
Belinelli fits in perfectly with the Spurs in every way. There’s a strong international presence in the locker room already and there’s the same opportunity for him to help at multiple positions like he did in Chicago, but most importantly he already has a fundamental understanding of the way Coach Pop wants him to play defensively.
“He’s also very versatile,” Popovich said. “[Tom Thibodeau] in Chicago, because of [Derrick] Rose being hurt, had to play him at the point a lot. He’s a heck of pick-and-roll player, you don’t usually see that in a two and three man. He’s very versatile offensively, he’s active on defense. He learned a lot in Chicago since they’re so good at it so I’m not going to be starting from scratch with defense with him. He’s going to enter into our plans significantly and quickly.”
Belinelli’s ability to play the point guard position could be utilized even more in San Antonio as they look to monitor Tony Parker’s minutes throughout the season to ensure that he isn’t overworked come playoff time when they need him at his best.
“He creates, he’s not a scorer, he’s not a point guard, but he creates, plays the pick-and-roll really well,” Ginobili said. “He can make shots, get to the rim, he’s a complete player who does everything well. He’s going to be important, especially with the second unit to share responsibilities so I don’t play with the ball the whole time. I can really rely on him to bring the ball and play pick-and-roll and I play off the ball, he plays with passion, he has made big shots last season. In the last couple years, he turned into a seasoned, developed player. Before he was always more of a promise, a talented kid that could get hot some other games not that much, but in the last two years I think he accomplished regularity that made him a great player.”
Kareem Doubts Kobe: There is no bigger storyline in Laker Land right now than when Kobe Bryant will make his debut. Bryant, who tore his Achilles tendon late in the regular season last year, still doesn’t have a definitive timetable for when he will be back on the court. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding his potential return date, especially with news breaking Thursday that he has left the country to get a procedure done. According to reports, the surgery is not related to his Achilles and Bryant is expected back next week.
However, even if Bryant does make it back to the court early, one former Lakers great does not expect him to be himself.
“It’s a rebuilding year for them because Kobe has been hurting and he has a very devastating type of injury,” Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said to Ken Berger of CBS Sports. “I don’t think he will be able to come back as quickly and as completely as he would like. It’s going to be tough on the Lakers this year.
“When Kobe does come back, it’s gonna be a different Kobe and that will definitely effect the outcome for the Lakers long-term.”
Bryant has always had the uncanny ability to turn just about anything into motivation, and this will certainly be something else that adds to his fire. He recently released this cryptic tweet, a shot at ESPN for ranking him 12th last year in their player ratings.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) October 1, 2013
The Lakers are expected to rely heavily on Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake at the shooting guard position until Bryant does make his way back to the court.
Their first preseason game is Saturday against the Golden State Warriors, their first of three preseason games against them. The Lakers are playing eight preseason games in total, and Bryant is not expected to participate barring some unforeseen development.