The best player on the best team in the league demonstrated his irreplaceable value for the Spurs in their Friday night win 106-96 against Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets.
Ginobili went 8 for 16 last night scoring a team high 26 points in helping the Spurs achieve their 20th straight victory at home this year and are now 27-2 at the AT&T Center this year, with their last loss in November against their interstate rivals, the Dallas Mavericks.
Value is hard to measure.
But if there is one consistent way to judge the value of a player, it would be winning.
Simply put, Manu Ginobili is a winner.
Ginobili is the only player in basketball history to win the Euroleague, an Olympic gold medal, and an NBA Championship.
Not only has he won 3 NBA Championships with the Spurs, 2002-03, 2004-05 and 2006-07, but he has done so in many different ways. Manu has filled every role the Spurs have asked of him. He has been asked to be 6th man, to be the defensive stopper, and to be the closer for the Spurs at the end of games. To his credit, he has fulfilled these roles quite well, winning the 6th man award in 2007-08, ranking in the top 10 in steals this year with 1.6/game, and having several exciting buzzer beaters for the Spurs this year when his team needed it the most.
So the question is what's the next step for Manu? Be the leader of the team.
With Tim Duncan being the face of this franchise since he was drafted in 1997, this year's Spurs have taken a new approach to winning. They are going to use their 33 year old Argentinean along with the rest of the supporting cast to carry a bigger load for the team.
Insane as this might sound, it has worked. The Spurs are now 48-10 and seem to be well on their way to locking the #1 seed and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
This shouldn't be a surprise, as this isn't the first time a team led by Manu has been successful. While Tim Duncan is still the anchor and Mr. Fundamental for the team, he has been asked to have his minutes cut to under 30 minutes a game so far this season, while Manu is averaging his highest minutes in his career, 31.1 min per game.
With his increased minutes, he is putting up his best numbers of his career with the Spurs. He is averaging 17.9 points, 4.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals a game thus far. His numbers and the success of the team allowed Manu to play in his 2nd All-Star game of his career, with his 1st All-Star appearance being six years ago.
While many people consider him the biggest steal in NBA draft history, he continues to prove people wrong by win after win. In my opinion, he is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Derrick Rose are definitely top candidates for MVP this year, but it would be a travesty not to at least consider the best player on the best team if he continues to help San Antonio reach their best season in franchise history.
What more can you ask from a player?
Critics can say he has a great supporting cast. They can say he doesn't produce the numbers as the top guards in the league.
And I would say they are right.
But if the Spurs end up capturing their 5th ring this season under the leadership of Mr. Ginobili, it will just be one additional way Manu has met the needs of his team and has found a way to win. And to me, winning is pretty valuable.