The San Antonio Spurs ended their season earlier than expected in a fashion that inspired many questions about the team’s future. For all the on-court issues surrounding their postseason exit, though, the long view of their Western Conference Semifinals Game 6 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was that it could possibly serve as the final game for franchise legends and future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. The loss ended the greatest regular season in franchise history, but it also had the potential to close the books on a truly fantastic era of Spurs basketball.
Duncan has yet to make an official decision on his status, but Ginobili looks set to come back to San Antonio for at least one more season. Manu, who turns 39 later this month, wrote Sunday that he intends to keep playing in the NBA. The post to his personal blog is in Spanish, but here’s the gist — Ginobili feels that this season went better than his 2014-15, excepting his very uncomfortable-sounding testicular surgery in February, and wants to play at least a little longer. He will announce more specific intentions in his regular column for La Nación, a newspaper in Argentina.
Ginobili does not mention that he’ll play for the Spurs, but that decision seems like a formality given his long history with the franchise. A report from ESPN’s Marc Stein seems to confirm as much.
Although he is not the game-changing disruptor at both ends that he was in his prime, Ginobili figures to be a useful contributor to San Antonio despite his relatively advanced age. As noted by Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball, Ginobili’s 2015-16 ranks as one of the four most efficiently productive age-37-or-older seasons since 1973, with Michael Jordan and Sam Cassell (twice) acting as the only other players to put up 24 points, seven assists, and five rebounds per 100 possessions. However, the context for that efficiency matters — Ginobili averaged a career-low 19.6 minutes per game and dipped below a double-figure per-game scoring average for the first time since his rookie year. He’ll probably put up similar numbers next season.
Ginobili’s return doesn’t really solve any of the Spurs’ biggest issues. They’re still old and slow in the backcourt and could use an infusion of new shot creation, which could put pressure on first-round pick Dejounte Murray if no other options surface.
Then again, every season Manu plays for San Antonio is about much more than what he does on the court. He’s a beloved figure around the franchise and league — any time he plays for the Spurs should be savored. (It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a useful contributor willing to give hometown discounts.) We should celebrate him whenever we can, because every passing season is more likely to be his last.
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