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Ball Don't Lie

Manu Ginobili discusses the frustration of ‘having to play with the parking brake on’ due to injury

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Why wouldn't Manu Ginobili want to return to all this? (Getty Images)

San Antonio Spurs legend Manu Ginobili turned 36 in July. He’s missed a combined 55 regular season games over the last two years, the expected payoff after years of all-out play that often ran deep into the NBA’s postseason, usually followed up by extended runs representing his native Argentina in international play.

Recently, Ginobili sat down for a candid and revealing interview with the Argentinean paper La Nación, and J. Gomez at Pounding the Rock was thoughtful and diligent enough to translate and transcribe it for us. In the back and forth, Ginobili comes clean on a season that truly seemed to wear him down, especially as he struggled to provide Manu Ginobili-esque play as the playoffs trudged along.

What was weighing on you? Because you clearly weren't and aren't tired of basketball

The physical part. Having to keep rehabilitating and getting in shape after injuries. 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 went on to point out that it only took two or three days of “grieving” following San Antonio’s Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat before deciding that he was going to come back for another season, and sign a free agent deal with the Spurs.

This may seem like a quick turnaround, especially considering the nearly eight-month run of 103 regular and postseason San Antonio Spurs games that preceded that decision. The turnaround had to be quick, though, because San Antonio’s postseason run ended on June 20, and the free agent period sparked up just a week and a half later. Ginobili couldn’t dawdle, which is tough stuff for a guy that has been with the team for 11 years as an active player, 14 years after being drafted by the club, as he prepared to sign what will probably be his last contract with the team.

Apparently it was enough time to build up the muscle strength to put pen to paper, as Ginobili admitted that the trying 2012-13 left him just about out of gas:

This year, like never before, you looked weak

A lot of times this year I've been told I looked weak, vulnerable, fragile. 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.

Manu responded in the affirmative to the question that was posed about the swingman being “energized by anger,” which probably helps explain this brilliant 24-point, 10-assist performance in Game 5 of the Finals, coming at Ginobili’s probable low-point as an oft-injured (and subsequently, oft-criticized) veteran.

It’s also clear that Ginobili is more than a little peeved at his Spurs being thought of as just another Finals loser (in the first San Antonio Finals series loss of the Tim Duncan era), when the team gave Miami all it could handle, telling the newspaper that critics will “see we were as good as Seattle or Utah were when they lost to the Chicago Bulls.”

This is clearly a frustrated dude.

That’s just fine. With no international play scheduled, Manu will have a full three months’ rest before getting back into the grind in late September; and while that may not feel sufficient, it’s often more than he’s usually afforded. How the savvy Ginobili responds to his declining athleticism over the next two years of his contract remains to be seen, but if this interview is any indication it’s obvious that Ginobili is about as self-aware as they come.

Translation didn’t cloud that sentiment. The man is beat, but he’s getting back up off the canvas for another go.

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