May 29, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) reacts against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half in game two of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at the AT
The profileMinutes: 23.3Points: 12.9Rebounds: 3.4Assists: 4.4FG%: 52.6%3P%: 41.3%FT%: 87.1%
The (advanced) profileTS%: 66.8%USG%: 22.7%PER: 24.1Offensive PPP: 1.05 (17th)Defensive PPP: 0.96 (405th)Offensive rating (points per 100 possessions): 125Defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 104
I’ll have to admit that the Spurs’ first round exit to the Memphis Grizzlies still stings. The pain of failing to live up to my exorbitant expectations is something that doesn’t simply eradicate from my psyche. It persists. So you can imagine how much the pain I’ve endured, one that I continue to endure, following Oklahoma City Thunder’s defeat of the San Antonio Spurs in six games. If you think Memphis stings, this is worse. Not merely because it’s a more recent defeat but because I raised my expectations this year. I naively believed San Antonio would win the championship during the 2010-11 season. This season? I expected it. I took the entire process for granted, sure, but I don’t think you can blame me. I’m sure you felt the same way.
Another reason: We had Manu freaking Ginobili. Many Spurs fans pointed to the absence of a fully healthy Manu Ginobili (he suffered a sprained right elbow against Phoneix; the injury was later upgraded to a broken arm following the Spurs’ brief playoff run) as the main culprit. I believe this is a valid reason — it’s not an excuse really, though Memphis was perfectly equipped to upset the Spurs — why San Antonio couldn’t live up to my expectations. This year? No excuses. Oklahoma City was the superior team. And this tears me up for two reasons: A) losing sucks and B) we had Manu freaking Ginobili.
Ginobili was supposed to be the player that put this team over the top. His herky-jerky game, deft passing and ability to adapt to his teammates’ respective abilities gave him a comfortable niche for San Antonio that he’s filled for awhile. It’s his role and he excels. Of course, this season didn’t come without obstacles. Ginobili suffered yet another injury that derailed his 2011-12 season. Ginobili missed 32 regular season games, most of which coming from breaking his fifth metacarpal on his left hand.
It was a shame because on a per-minute basis Manu was playing at a career-high level. Ginobili finished third in TS% behind Tyson Chander and Steve Novak. If anything, Ginobili’s balanced game — he improved his numbers across the board with the exception of turnovers — made him an even more important cog to the 2011-12 Spurs than the 2010-11 edition.
Ginobili came back from injury without missing a beat. He shot better than 50% from the field in March and April in addition to his defensive aptitude. Tony Parker continued to carry the team and Duncan protected the paint, walling it off from aspiring scorers. Ginobili manned the perimeter, distributed to his teammates, attacked the boards and, most importantly, instilled hope into the Spurs fan base (myself included). Ginobili was our hope, our tool, our key to unlocking another NBA Championship.
Every team needs a Manu Ginobili. They’re few and far and between as the combination of basketball IQ and wherewithal are very rare. Most teams would settle for a 1/10th of Ginobili though. What he brings to the team is not quantifiable. Therefore, his contribution is somewhat ambiguous which attributes to the NBA finally recognizing and appreciating Ginobil in his current state.
Sometimes statistics don’t capture the full value of a players values. In Ginobili’s case, they do. But they don’t quite capture the ancillary facets of his game which are even more valuable. He’s a double-edge sword: capable of instilling damage through more accepted methods (scoring) and dismantling defenses from the interior through his perspicacious passing and continuous motor.
Manu Ginobili was, and remains, the heart and soul of the San Antonio Spurs.
Performance of the year: June 4, 2012 vs Oklahoma City. L 103-108.The line: 38:26 MIN | 11-21 FG | 7-8 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 34 PTS | +13
Gregg Popovich inserted Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup after Oklahoma City exposed the Spurs’ defense. The intention was to create another mismatch and to help create space for Tony Parker who was hounded by Thabo Sefolosha. The tactic worked as Manu scored 34 points. In a span of two minutes, Ginobili converted on three 3-pointers that gave San Antonio a six-point lead with 17 minutes to play. As you probably know, Oklahoma City closed on a 47-36 run that put the Spurs in a 3-2 hole. It was Ginobili’s long 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left that clanked off the rim, essentially clinching a series victory for the Thunder.
Season grade: B