Since arriving in San Antonio for the 2002-2003 NBA season, Manu Ginobili has been one of the most influential members on the roster.
He was a late second-round draft pick and, despite the odds, matured to be one of the best players in San Antonio Spurs history.
Now a seasoned veteran, the 35-year-old Ginobili is witnessing a gradual decline as he plays out the final year of his contract.
Just last year, the Spurs were witnessing a similar situation emerging with Tim Duncan.
The team's franchise star was nearing the end of his $21.16 million dollar deal and, with the offseason approaching, it was common knowledge that the future Hall-of-Famer would re-sign with his former team.
Like Duncan, there is little question where Ginobili will spend the final years of his career. The Spurs have been his home and family since arriving as a rookie and he has no intentions of taking his talents elsewhere.
"I have two years left on my contract with San Antonio and my intention is not to play in another team and to retire as a Spur," Ginobili said.
Duncan declared himself a "Spur for life" and, after signing another paycheck with the team, has emerged as an All-Star talent, despite his obvious age concerns.
So what is in store for Ginobili?
While the Argentinean guard is not quite as physically attached to Duncan, the only other route NBA fans can imagine him taking is retirement.
With another few years on the squad likely, however, the biggest questions are his contract situation and his role with the team.
Ginobili currently leads the Spurs in terms of salary, with just over $14 million remaining in his most recent deal. However, the two time All-Star has lost a step or two over the last few years and injury has plagued his entire career.
A pay cut would be expected anyways, but should he follow in Duncan's shoes here, a dramatic decrease could be looming.
Duncan's pay cut ensured that the Spurs would remain contenders beyond his retirement, and Ginobili will likely make his decision baring the team's future in mind, as well.
Every NBA team has developed a family-like atmosphere, but the "Spurs Big Three" have realized that sacrifice is necessary should the team succeed.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘How are you so successful in San Antonio?’” Parker said. “Because, I say, we did a lot of sacrifice. When you look at Manu, Manu did a lot of sacrifice to stay here. I did the same thing. Sometimes when you want to win championships, you have to do that.”
By taking less than what his market value may be, Ginobili would give the Spurs flexibility over the offseason, increasing their chances of winning a title as his window for another ring closes.
Although the deal itself cannot be predetermined, one cannot consider Ginobili donning colors other than the sleek black and silver next year.
With his fate on the team fairly secure, the other question that Ginobili brings forth is his role on the team.
Throughout his career, the shooting guard has witnessed his spot in the rotation fluctuate from starter to sixth man multiple times. But with the emergence of Danny Green, his future as the team's spark off of the bench is practically written in stone.
However, while Ginobili will be one of the team's most prominent players until he hangs up his jersey, the effects of aging have hit him harder than others on the team.
Needless to say,his minutes will be monitored heavily.
As of December 5, he is averaging 24.5 minutes per game, the third lowest behind last year's 23 and his rookie campaign.
This obvious decline in playing time is evidence that Ginobili is beginning to slow down.
And while his leadership and intelligence will never disintegrate, his fading talent will force him to shift from a star to a role player.
However, despite his decline, one thing is for sure.
When the 2013 NBA season tips off, Manu Ginobili will be a Spur—a title that will never fade.
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