Manu Ginobili recently told Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports that he's performing so well this season — just under 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds per 36 minutes of floor time, posting the fourth-highest Player Efficiency Rating in the league among shooting guards, a top-drawer Sixth Man of the Year candidate and the playmaking linchpin of San Antonio Spurs second units that routinely scorch opposing defenses while giving Tim Duncan and Tony Parker a chance to take a breather — because, after a year of draining hamstring injuries, he's been "healthy," "strong" and "thinking about the game" rather than about his body. The one exception to that health: a three-week stint on the shelf after straining his left hamstring by dunking against the Houston Rockets. (Gambling can make men do ill-advised things.)
After the 36-year-old's throwback throwdown landed him in the trainer's room for nearly a month, point guard Parker joked that Manu's not allowed to dunk anymore for fear that he'd sustain further injury. Against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night, though, the only thing the always fearless Manu injured was his pride — and, maybe, the front of the rim:
Juuuuust a bit short.
Manu's last 3 dunk attempts this season: strained hammy, rim-check, rim-check. #layupsonly— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) March 25, 2014
Thankfully, Manu took post-game jokes about his just-shy jump in (mis-counted) stride:
Always a good sport. Said he did not get the internal memo about no more dunking. Either that, or he tossed it in the trash can.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) March 25, 2014
It's easy to be in a good mood after chipping in nine points, five boards, three assists and a steal in 26 minutes of work in a rare spot start — Parker and Danny Green got the night off, as did big man Tiago Splitter — as the Spurs easily handled the 76ers, 113-91, for their 14th straight win. The victory tied the longest regular-season winning streak in the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era, improved San Antonio's league-best record to 54-16, and kept the Spurs two games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the Western Conference. (It also handed the Sixers their 25th straight defeat, putting them one game shy of tying the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers for the longest losing streak in NBA history.)
On a night where hardly anything went wrong for San Antonio, Manu's missed dunk stuck out a little bit, thanks in large part to how it reminded us of both the way Ginobili has always approached the game, how the passage of time complicates that approach, and how Manu just keeps doing what he's doing anyway, according to Pounding the Rock:
Manu is a brilliant basketball mind with a body that can't always keep up these days, yet he stubbornly trudges on. Hell, even his hairline is under attack from every flank, but he pays no mind. Manu Ginobili is a stubborn frustration, and for that he will arguably always be the most beloved Spur.
So on a night when Austin Daye, Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard wowed the crowd with trampoline jumps and youthful athleticism, I couldn't stop thinking about Manu Ginobili stubbornly missing a dunk.
You're not alone, San Antonio Red Raider. Here's hoping Manu's still able to think more about the game than his body this Tuesday morning — or, that if he's thinking about his body, he's at least thinking more about making sure he goes for the finger-roll next time.
Video via NBAshowtimeHD9.
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