Ginobili is the player you want to strangle if he's not on your team, but you want him on your team just the same.
He was the leading scorer last season, with 19.5 ppg. These points needed to be acquired from someone in his absence after undergoing surgery to correct a tendon injury in his left ankle. Yet they not only needed to score an extra 20, but also capture his spark.
Without Ginobili, the Spurs suffered a 1-4 record, the worst in their franchise history. With their star SG out, the Spurs were instantly thrown into the "Non-Playoff Team" category, though they were only being two weeks in.
They threw the load onto All-Star teammate and captain Tim Duncan. He carried the team gracefully, but they barely won most games. And when they lost, they lost badly.
129-125 against the Memphis Grizzlies
77-75 against the Houston Rockets
90-88 against the Sacramento Kings
86-83 against the Los Angeles Clippers
These wins were actually quite sad, as three of the four teams are eighth seeds or non-playoff teams. Then again, a win is still a win, and just what San Antonio needed so desperately.
81-98 against the Dallas Mavericks
83-99 against the Miami Heat
The Spurs lacked high scoring offense most times, and resorted to what they knew best. Defense.
Manu's strong presence back in the mix raises the Spurs' chances at not only the playoffs, but the Finals.
In his comeback game (@ Memphis, Nov. 24), Manu contributed 12 points in 11 minutes, including an epic first shot: a deep three-pointer.
This shot echoed two words across the league: "He's baaaaaaacck."
One of the only truly dangerous bench players, Manu is surely good enough to start for any team.
His explosive attitude and destructive quality have always been key for San Antonio's game. He is harder to guard due to the fact that he's nearly ambidextrous and is fearless in the paint. This gave him true value to the Spurs' Championship runs.
The Spurs won't rely on him too heavily, though. He's expected to play 5-10-15 minutes per game that will increase incrementally, Popovich and Manu agree.
They rank third in the Southwest Division, but can easily grow into a top four team in the West with Ginobili and Parker back at 100 percent.
The return of Manu Ginobili is huge for the Spurs and Spurs fans alike. Still, no one should be counting their chickens before they hatch.
It's all a matter of time in San Antonio.
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