4 Reasons to Fear the San Antonio Spurs Once Manu Ginobili Returns
Since losing Manu Ginobili at the start of the season, the San Antonio Spurs have not done many things wrong. Coach Gregg Popovich inserted a more defensive presence into the starting lineup in Kawhi Leonard, giving his team more size on the guard/forward spots where Leonard’s wingspan has been able to bother perimeter players.
As a result, however, both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have had to take on more of the scoring load. Sometimes they do fine, other times they have off games. It is the nature of the business.
With a victory last night over the New Orleans Hornets, the Spurs sit at a comfortable 15-9 mark despite missing arguably their best player.
No offense to Tim Duncan, who the team still relies on heavily in the post, but Manu is the driving force behind the Spurs’ success in recent years.
The Spurs are not a perfect squad, and they certainly have things to improve. However, after winning three in a row and getting nicely adjusted to life without Manu for now, teams in the NBA will undoubtedly be a little weary when they still see S.A. near the top of the rankings, and a healthy, antsy Ginobili ready to get back on the court.
Well-Rested just in time to get Ready for the Playoffs
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Many are projecting Ginobili to be back around the end of February.
If this is the case and the Spurs are still playing stellar ball, then the team should be thrilled by this return date.
A healthy Ginobili will help offset some of the older Spurs as they coast while waiting for the playoffs to begin. Nobody needs an introduction to the heroics this guy has pulled out before, and he will be sure to do it again if his team begins to lag behind a bit.
With about two months of regular season ball—arguably the perfect time frame for Manu to get rolling again—Ginobili will be primed for a lethal playoff run.
You could make a case Manu's injury on January 2nd was the best thing that could have happened to the team. Should the Spurs continue to hang around with the league's best by the time he gets back, the 34-year-old will be less prone to injury like the broken noses, bad ankles, fractured arms—those kinds of things.
The Younger Players Will Be Acclimated to the Playbook
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In a lockout shortened season, you will see young players get chances they would not normally have as teams shuffle their rosters. A player like Cory Joseph would probably be in the D-League gaining experience and confidence, but as a result of the lockout and the Spurs current need for guards, he is on the roster getting minutes.
There are growing pains that comes with this, especially with rookies like Joseph and Kawhi Leonard (pictured above), but increased confidence as the Spurs inch closer to the playoffs will prove to be monumental to not only the team's short-term goals, but for their future aspirations as well.
Leonard has already shown signs of defensive tenacity on the perimeter, something the Spurs have not had since they traded Bruce Bowen to acquire Richard Jefferson.
Ginobili's injury opens up more minutes and opportunities for the youngsters on the Spurs to cash in, and with a coach like Gregg Popovich at the helm aiding them along, you know the kids will be alright.
The Last Time the Spurs Were Healthy, they were Champions
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The last time the Spurs won the title was in 2007.
In 2008, they were knocked out by the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Manu Ginobili was hobbling on one leg from an injury he sustained in the previous round against the New Orleans Hornets.
In 2009, Ginobili was shut down for the season, and the Spurs experienced a first-round exit to the Dallas Mavericks.
In 2010, they got their revenge on the Mavericks by defeating them in the first round, but not without Dirk Nowitzki's elbow smashing Manu's nose to pieces. A muzzled Ginobili never looked the same after with an uncomfortable facemask against the Phoenix Suns in the second round, where the Spurs were swept.
And as much as everyone still makes a big deal out of it, the Spurs lost to the Grizzlies in the first round.
What everyone does not remember is that Ginobili was playing with a broken arm (which was confirmed by team doctors two weeks after the series had concluded), and Duncan could not elevate over Marc Gasol's long arms with a bum ankle.
Sure, every team has bad injuries. Maybe the Grizzlies still beat the Spurs with Rudy Gay in the lineup, who knows.
But it is a bona fide fact that the last time the Spurs were completely healthy, they won the title.
He's Manu Ginobili
Pop usually says it best.
Ginobili is a winner at every level. Olympic gold medal? Check. Three-time NBA champion? Yep. Sixth Man of the Year winner? Uh huh.
The Spurs are a better team with Ginobili on the court, and when he finds his form, especially in the playoffs, it is simply glorious to watch. The fact that he started this past season so hot before his injury should give many Spurs confidence that Manu has not lost a step. He still looks quick, clever and daring as ever.
Ginobili is one of those players that you absolutely hate and label a "flopper" if he is not on your team. However, if you are a Spurs fan, you love the guy to death.
The hustle plays and intangibles are just some of the few things he adds to the team, but his heart and willingness to sustain bumps and bruises if it means keeping the ball alive is what is completely admirable, even if arguably insane.
The Spurs, if they stay healthy, will compete for a title once again.
But, until then, most will listen to the media and write them off, then act all surprised come playoff time when they are as good a bet to win the title as any.
As a Spurs fan, it is something I have had to deal with since they were first called old during the last days of David Robinson.
They have done pretty well since then, and it is not over yet by a long shot.