Skip to content

The evolution of Manu Ginobili

Jun 8, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

2014 NBA Finals - Game One Getty Images

SAN ANTONIO — Manu Ginobili was picking apart the Heat in Game 1 — 16 points on 10 shots, plus 11 assists. He was attacking off the pick-and-roll, making sharp passes to a rolling Tim Duncan or Tiago Splitter, plus he was getting open looks (7 of his 10 shot attempts were on uncontested looks, a sign of smart play and good ball movement).

His influence on the outcome of Game 1 was massive — but it was very different from the way he would have influenced a game just a few years ago.

The Spurs offense has evolved, and more importantly so has the 36-year-old Ginobili as he has aged. He influences outcomes much more with his mental game now.

“He’s still Manu, but he’s not the Manu he was a few years back where he could take over games in an instant,” Danny Green said.

It all started a few years back when Gregg Popovich decided to change the offense, picking up the tempo and turning the keys over more to his guards Tony Parker and Ginobili. Popovich saw his team’s roster, saw the direction the league was moving (with more pick-and-rolls and shots early in the clock) and became an early adopter.

“When you look at tapes of how we played in the ’02-03 season, we were very different,” Ginobili said. “We were pretty much a team of going past half court, feeding Tim (Duncan), space around and try to get something out of that.

“Now we try to be way more mobile and move the ball much better, more passes. And I think in the last few years we did it so much better. Everybody is feeling important. Everybody is feeling that they are helping the team do better. It’s been a fun change to be part of.”

Popovich saw it as a trade off.

“We’re not as good as we used to be defensively,” he said of his aging roster. “So if that’s going to diminish, you need to do something at the other end of the floor to make up for it. We changed our pace, and the way we approach things at the other end of the floor to make up for what we’re going to lose defensively. That’s the bottom line.”

Ginobili said the new offense works because it is “more unpredictable.”

But there were other adjustments needed for Ginobili — father time was catching up with him.

Ginobili was always a crafty player, but people underestimated his athleticism, his ability to get by his man, get into the paint and cause problems. Age ultimately robs all players of that, some just adjust better than others.

“I had to learn to play with less explosiveness in my legs,” Ginobili said. “Before my game depended a lot on my ability to go by my defender or attack one-on-one, or run more in transition. But now I know I can’t do that, or I can do that for a few minutes and then I run out of juice.

“So I had to develop more my passing ability, my understanding of the game and the system. The fact that you get to understand the system very well helps because you know where your teammates are going to be in each situation. The things you get with experience.”

That evolution was not always smooth.

“Last year he was more aggressive and trying to take over some games sometimes and Pop had to tell him ‘you can’t do it all at once or do it by yourself,’ you got to trust your teammates,” Green said. “And he did last year for the most part. But he still found himself being the guy who tries to take over. And he’s capable of doing it, and some nights he’s not, when he’s not shooting it well. But he’s been very consistent this year trusting everyone around him, finding guys, and playing his part.”

It was the step needed to not only get the Spurs back to the NBA Finals but to make the Spurs a bigger threat to the Heat — last season Miami’s pressure defense caused some ugly games for Ginobili. He had eight turnovers in the painful Game 6 loss.

It’s just one game, but Ginobili handled the Heat’s pressure with much more aplomb in Game 1.

“(Heat defenders’) hands and their blitzes, they didn’t bother me as much as last year in some games,” Ginobili said. He added that with that he was sharper hitting cutters with his passes.

It’s all just part of the evolution of Manu Ginobili.

Latest Posts
  1. Bugs Bunny teases the Jordan XXX in interview with Ahmad Rashad (VIDEO)

    Apr 1, 2015, 7:29 PM EDT

    Google ChromeScreenSnapz007

    Jordan Brand keeps with the Space Jam theme in advance of this weekend’s retro releases.

  2. Heat’s Shabazz Napier out for season after sports hernia surgery

    Apr 1, 2015, 5:33 PM EDT

    Sacramento Kings v Miami Heat Getty Images

    He had only played in one of the last dozen Heat games.

  3. Report: Kings to sign Sim Bhullar to 10-day contract, would be first Indian descent in NBA

    Apr 1, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT

    2015 NBA D-Leage Showcase Getty Images

    Seen at Summer League he was project, we’ll see how far along he has come.

  4. Stephen Curry clear betting favorite to win MVP

    Apr 1, 2015, 4:21 PM EDT

    Stephen Curry AP

    Curry is going to win this award. More than that, he’s earned it.

  5. Ryan Anderson to return to Pelicans lineup Wednesday vs. Lakers

    Apr 1, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Orlando Magic Getty Images

    Anderson has missed the last 18 games due to injury, and New Orleans is trying to catch OKC for the final playoff spot in the West.

  6. Russell Westbrook has league-leading 15th technical foul rescinded

    Apr 1, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    Russell Westbrook AP

    A 16th during the regular season would mean a one-game suspension.

  7. Lance Stephenson says he doesn’t regret free agent decision to sign with Hornets

    Apr 1, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    Stephenson didn’t play in his team’s last game as a result of the coach’s decision.

  8. Stephen Curry crosses over Chris Paul a second time (VIDEO)

    Apr 1, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    Stephen Curry, Chris Paul AP

    Not as devastating as the one that’s made the rounds, but deadly nonetheless.

  9. Report: LeBron James calls the plays, Cavaliers coach David Blatt repeats them to team

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    We know it’s LeBron’s world in Cleveland, but this makes Blatt look a bit silly.

  10. Blake Griffin: ‘Home-court advantage is just not there for us’

    Apr 1, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    Blake Griffin AP

    This isn’t the first time one of the Clippers has publicly pointed out the obvious.

  11. Chris Paul posts self-mocking meme after getting crossed over by Stephen Curry

    Apr 1, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT

    chrispaultwistermeme

    The Internet went nuts with memes of Paul falling down, and he got in on the fun himself.

Featured video

Clippers playoffs? MCW shooting? Your twitter questions answered.
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. H. Whiteside (6582)
  2. K. Durant (6042)
  3. K. Martin (5838)
  4. K. Lowry (5731)
  5. D. Wade (5617)
  1. G. Monroe (5579)
  2. D. Rose (5567)
  3. P. George (5379)
  4. R. Rubio (5264)
  5. B. Knight (5221)