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Manu Ginobili Player Preview: What to expect this season

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This is probably Manu Ginobili’s final season. Yes, I know that we’ve all been thinking that since 2012, but this time it might be true.

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He and Tony Parker are the last two players from last decade’s championship teams. Tim Duncan’s leaving over the off-season and Tony Parker’s desire to play “five more years” allows Manu to get a proper send off to NBA retirement.

I doubt that Ginobili and the Spurs will have to endure the pomp and circumstance that followed Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour, but I imagine the leagues’ other teams will show their appreciation for Manu’s accomplishments throughout his Hall of Fame career.

All this retirement talk, of course, takes a backseat to team goals and expectations. This isn’t the Los Angeles Lakers, who were so bad last year, that they had to pimp out Kobe to get butts in the seats. Many analysts have the Spurs penciled in as one of the top two or three teams out west. Last year the story for the Lakers was Kobe’s retirement. The story for this season’s Spurs is how will they compete at a championship level without Duncan.

Not only will Manu be expected to provide veteran leadership on the court and in the locker room, but his production is needed if they are to be a legitimate threat to the defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors.

Ginobili’s minutes played average has hovered around 22-23 minutes a game since the 2010-11 season, when he played an average of 30 minutes a game (2007 he averaged 31 minutes–a career high).

In the 2010 season he averaged 17 points and 4.9 assists a game. Ginobili has not averaged more than 14 points a game since then and last year he only scored 9.6 points (his career low is the 7.6 points he averaged his rookie year) while playing an average of 19.6 minutes a game.

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With the younger, fresher legs of Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Simmons looking to get more playing time, I would not be surprised to see a decrease if Ginobili’s minutes per game average this season.

An average of 16 minutes a game (around 4 minutes a quarter) is not out of the question–especially considering that Ginobili played deep into the Summer Olympics in Brazil. Gregg Popovich will surely have his eye on how much he plays Ginobili during the regular season, because his experience and on the court presence is invaluable for the playoffs.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Ginobili’s production will go down. It is not impossible to imagine a season long minutes restriction providing a certain amount of freedom for Manu. His reckless abandon would be a welcome lift coming of the bench, and he has been known to get hot during certain stretches of the ball game.

Who is to say he won’t still average 9 to 10 points a game? I wouldn’t bet against it.

Spurs fans will have 41 opportunities to bid adieu to the Argentine phenom in their own special way. No matter how far the team goes, saying that final goodbye won’t be easy.

The man has provided 13 years worth of spectacular basketball (and other ) memories, and he deserves every bit of fan fair he receives during what is surely his NBA swan song.

20 years from now, people will speak of Emanuel “Manu” Ginobili with the kind of reverence usually held for folk heroes. His artistic style of play had an ABA flair that was both exciting and anxiety inducing.

If you’ve ever talked with someone who watched cult figures like Pistol Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, or George Gervin, you probably remember the way their faces lit up, as they animatedly explained what it was like to see them play. Ginobili fans light up in similar fashion.

Ginobili’s hustle, championship pedigree, and passion, are just three of the reasons people consider him a basketball legend; not only in the NBA, but in the global game as well.

While he remains an under appreciated figure by the casual fan (at least those not from Texas), people who follow the league closely; understand the many contributions that Ginobili made for the game of basketball.

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People from his homeland, Argentina, hold Manu in the same high esteem as Frenchman have for football great, Zinedine Zidane. He has represented his country well, both here and abroad,and has been a great ambassador for the sport. There will never be another player quite like him.

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