San Antonio Spurs: Gregg Popovich wanted Manu Ginobili to return

By Rob Wolkenbrod
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 21: Manu Ginobili
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 21: Manu Ginobili /

Before Manu Ginobili announced his return to the San Antonio Spurs, he was persuaded by Gregg Popovich.

Manu Ginobili walked off the court in Game 4 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals with an unknown future. He finished a 15th season with the San Antonio Spurs, for the third consecutive year, as a bench player at age 39.

After six weeks, Ginobili’s return would be confirmed for a 16th season. It brings him back to a team that added pieces like Rudy Gay, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Brandon Paul in the offseason.

However, there was a driving force toward Ginobili’s return: head coach Gregg Popovich.

In La Nacion, an Argentinian website, the four-time NBA champion wrote about his decision to return to the league for another year. He cited Popovich, saying the long-time coach wanted him back: “He told me that he wanted me to continue and he needed me on the team. If he did not want me, it would have been easier for me.”

Ginobili also spoke of his connection to Patty Mills, saying he’s as a reason for the return, too. The recently re-signed player was called “my link with the new generation.”

For the 2017-18 season, Ginobili should fit back on the bench, playing behind Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard at the two and three spots. He did this last season, along with the occasional distribution duties that led to 2.7 assists per game.

A leadership role should continue for the 1999 NBA Draft pick, as well. He’s the oldest player on the team, going beyond Pau Gasol by almost three years, and should be able to use this experience to mentor the younger Spurs talent (Kawhi Leonard, Bryn Forbes, Dejounte Murray).

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The 2017-18 season will be Ginobili’s latest one. It could always be his last, but for now, let’s see where his immediate future goes in the Alamo City.