Jun 17, 2013, 1:58 PM EST
When I went to San Antonio to write this piece on Gregg Popovich (and, later, this piece on Tim Duncan) I was told, time and again, that the most popular San Antonio Spur in town, by far, is Manu Ginobili. At first, I found it a bit curious. I mean, Ginobili has been a terrific player, no question, but he’s certainly not Tim Duncan — who is the best, well, the best whatever-position-he-plays (big-power-center-forward-postman) in the history of professional basketball.
Manu is an amazing scorer and distributor and shooter, but he does not seem quite as much the force of nature that is Tony Parker, who is flashier and a bit less mercurial and speaks with a cool French accent and was married to Eva Longoria.
But, again and again, people said they loved Manu most of all … and watching him again these last few weeks I think I’ve figured out a reason why. I think there’s something about Manu Ginobili that is easy to recognize in ourselves. In the end,we might not connect with the consistent, almost numbing, every day brilliance of Tim Duncan, every move right out of a coach’s clinic, every game a perfect repeat of the one before. That kind of greatness may leave us wonderstruck but, like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it is hard to relate to.
And so it goes with Tony Parker’s blurring quickness — could we ever identify with a player who, at any point, can simply run around LeBron James? He’s so quick, so mind-blowingly quick, that sometimes he skips a video frame. He’s an optical illusion, and when watching him makes one of those moves you might involuntarily gasp, then pause for an instant to let the mind catch up, then explode in a croak that is half cheer, half disbelief. But, can you envision yourself — even with a few extra helpings of talent — making that move yourself?
Ginobili meanwhile — he’s utterly human. He makes preposterous blunders. He dishes no-look passes that blast the mind. He takes ludicrous shots. He makes some of them. He seemingly wins games singlehandedly. He seems to lose games all by himself too. At times, he seems like the gunner who shows up at the gym and takes every shot. At other times, he seems like the one guy on the floor who sees the game clearly, like he’s wearing Terminator goggles.
Obviously, you only have to look at the last two NBA Finals games to see the contrast. In Game 4 against Miami, Ginobili was a rare kind of abysmal. The numbers don’t quite quantify it — he shot 1-for-5, missed all three of his three-pointers, committed four fouls and one turnover. It’s not good, but it doesn’t tell the story. Maybe this does: Minus-22. That was how his team fared against Miami when he was on the floor. They were outscored by 22 points. There was something about Ginobili in Game 4 that seemed almost jinxed. He was like that guy Mayhem in the insurance commercials.
And Game 5? Well, you already know: Brilliant. Amazing. Spectacular. Ginobili started for the first time all season — seriously, Gregg Popovich should be given some sort of basketball knighthood and just wear robes when he’s on the sidelines — and he made eight of 14 shots, scored 24 points, dished 10 assists, added a steal and a couple of rebounds, and yes, this time he was plus-19. The Heat had no idea what to do when he was on the floor.
The extremes are greater now that Ginobili is older and his body is beat up, but really this has always been true of him. He has always been great and terrible, unstoppable and un-goable. Thirty two times in his career, he scored 30-plus points. One hundred thirty times he has played at least 20 minutes and scored single digits. He’s had nine games with double digit assists, and 10 games with double digit rebounds, and almost exactly as many when he had no rebounds (10) and no assists (13). He takes dives that are sometimes embarrassing, and he also makes no excuses and points at himself when things go bad. He ranges from the best player on the floor to a very good player to an OK player to invisible to car wreck.
And watching this, night after night, I can see how that gets inside you. Just when you think he’s shed the inconsistencies of the past, he has a game that makes you want to poke out your own eyeballs. Just when you wish the Spurs would just get rid of him, he saves a season with some bit of transcendent genius. In a weird way, it’s like the relationship with your kid. One minute, you want to ship them off to boarding school. The next minute, they bring you to a level of joy that never seemed possible.
I think now of a Spurs fan who tweeted me after Game 4. I had cracked wise about how great Dwyane Wade was in that game and how dreadful Ginobili had been. A brilliant reader named Ray Bailey tweeted back:
@JPosnanski Smart money says Ginobli will be awakened in game 5 and be a difference maker
— Ray Bailey (@raybailey1) June 14, 2013
And so it was. See, that might be the best part of being a fan of a player — when you know them so well, so deeply, that you sense their patterns and feel their pain and know their rhythms. San Antonio certainly treasures Tim Duncan for being so reliably awe-inspiring and San Antonio certainly adores Tony Parker for being a wizard capable of powerful magic.
But you could see how it is something a little bit different with Ginobili. They have lived with him, died with him, screamed at him and blessed his name. He could cost them Game 6 or he could win them Game 6. They know him, maybe, at a deeper level. And at some point, with Manu, there’s really nothing left to do but love the guy.
Dec 10, 2013, 10:09 PM EST
The Pacers wanted their Dec. 10 game vs. the Heat a whole heck of a lot more than Miami did, after falling to the eventual back-to-back champs in the Conference Finals a season ago and being very open with their goals heading into this year’s campaign. Indiana hasn’t been shy about declaring its desire to…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:40 PM EST
Jeremy Lin was playing his best basketball — at least since a couple weeks in New York a couple years ago — to start the season, having shown off a new-and-improved jumper (39 percent from three). He was a great spark plug sixth man. But he tweaked his knee back on Nov. 27 and has…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:01 PM EST
The Charlotte basketball organization will revert from the Bobcats to the Hornets next season, in a move that has hopes of re-engaging the local fan base with what has been a historically terrible basketball franchise. Winning solves any team’s problems in terms of ticket or merchandise sales, of course, but in absence of that, an…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:52 PM EST
NBA coaches comprise a fraternity. Many coaches like each other after years of working in the same field. Even the ones who dislike each other share an understanding of the responsibilities and pressures of this incredibly demanding job. That’s why it’s incredibly rare for a coach to publically criticize one of his peers, even if…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:40 PM EST
Danny Granger was a key reason the Pacers were supposed to be better this season — whether starting or coming off the bench, this is a former All-Star who can score the rock and add another offensive weapon to a team with the best defense in the league. However, a calf injury has sidelined him…
Dec 10, 2013, 4:44 PM EST
The Denver Nuggets have been outscored in every first quarter they’ve played this month. They’ve scored a little and fallen behind (22-18 to the Wizards on Monday night), scored a lot and still fallen behind (29-27 to the Nets on Dec. 3) and have just been plain routed (39-15 by the Celtics on Friday). Yet,…
Dec 10, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
Tuesday night we are getting an Eastern Conference Finals preview — Indiana vs. Miami. Please let it be an Eastern Conference Finals preview, because if one of these teams stumbles due to injury or whatever else the other one can start planning what to wear to NBA Finals press conferences. It’s a two-team East this…
Dec 10, 2013, 3:23 PM EST
The Clipper locker room is not like others — Chris Paul‘s son has the run of the place and some other team members regularly bring their children in. It’s different, but it works for the Clips, who have pretty good team chemistry. Now ‘Lil Chris is showing up in the latest Foot Locker ad. And…
Dec 10, 2013, 2:32 PM EST
Randy Wittman, coaching a Wizards team that has a singular focus of reaching the 2014 playoffs, watched his squad start 2-7 – placing him firmly on the hot seat. Washington then won seven of its next nine, and even with losses in its last two games, that should be enough for Wittman to keep his…
Dec 10, 2013, 1:58 PM EST
How much do the Chicago Bulls miss Derrick Rose at the point? It looks like they are going to pick up D.J. Augustin, who was waived Monday by the Toronto Raptors. So reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. The Bulls lost superstar point guard Derrick Rose for the season, and have been searching for further…
Dec 10, 2013, 1:29 PM EST
Paul George not only has to be the focal point of the Indiana Pacers offense, but also he usually gets assigned to cover the other team’s best wing player. LeBron James does too, but often only for a quarter or so. Even Michael Jordan had a great defender in Scottie Pippen to carry the load…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:44 PM EST
This is as it should be. On Jan. 31 next year the Jazz are going to retire a number in honor of Jerry Sloan. For 23 years Sloan was the Utah Jazz — not the face of it (that would be John Stockton and Karl Malone) but the driving force behind a franchise that played…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:23 PM EST
Asked after the game Sunday night what he thought of his form in his return from an Achilles tendon rupture, Kobe Bryant said, ““Right now my form is a horse s— form” and gave himself an “F.” A day later, he softened his tone, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles. “It wasn’t as…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:40 AM EST
NBA basketball right now is entering a golden age. Just not everybody appreciates that. Charles Barkley swung by the Dan Patrick Show on Monday and together they sounded like grumpy old men telling you how basketball isn’t as good now as it was when they were fans of the sport. At least they didn’t throw…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:58 AM EST
Rudy Gay did not suit up for the Sacramento Kings Monday night. Not that they needed him, they got 32 from DeMarcus Cousins, 31 from Derrick Williams and 24 from Isaiah Thomas as they rolled to an impressive win over Dallas. However, when Gay (and Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray) walked into the building Monday…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:16 AM EST
Our own D.J. Foster asked this question in the Extra Pass this morning and he is not the only one: What is the point of the divisions in the NBA anymore? Teams don’t play the other teams in their division more than other teams now — the NBA has a “balanced schedule” where teams play…
Dec 10, 2013, 8:46 AM EST
Rudy who? The shorthanded Kings played well and put on a show in a win over Dallas Monday night. The highlight of that show? Isaiah Thomas on the fast break going off-the-backboard with the pass to Derrick Williams for the finish. Thomas had 24 points and 12 assists, Williams had a career-high 31 points in…
Dec 10, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
Five ideas that could help make the NBA even greater: Offensive Goaltending: Let’s get rid of it. The “in the cylinder” call is routinely one of the toughest for refs to get right on the floor, and we know how the subsequent huddle and review process can suck the life out of a game. If it…
Dec 10, 2013, 3:14 AM EST
Here is our nightly look at some of the noteworthy things around the NBA, the things you missed while glued to a toilet seat at Home Depot. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. Note to Rudy Gay: Get this guy the ball. Not like you did with Jonas Valanciunas — actually get Cousins the rock. Cousins…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:02 AM EST
Not sure I have ever seen this before. Early in the Clippers eventual easy win over the Sixers Chris Paul puts up a shot and because DeAndre Jordan‘s man had rotated over to help on the drive it left Tony Wroten — all 6’5″, 205 five of him — trying to keep Jordan off the…
- Pacers win first Conference Finals rematch vs. Heat 0
- Days before he faced LeBron, Paul George said Durant is NBA’s toughest cover 22
- A day later, Kobe didn’t think he played quite so bad 12
- Why question “When did basketball get so bad?” misses mark 51
- Adam Silver: NBA to consider doing away with divisions 21
- Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses (54)
- Why question “When did basketball get so bad?” misses mark (53)
- Durant tells “60 Minutes Sports” he’s still tired of being No. 2 (35)
- Report: Heat shopping Joel Anthony, seeking depth behind Wade (35)
- Fan wanders onto court while game is going on during Cavaliers-Clippers (VIDEO) (34)