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Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili and paths linked

Jun 16, 2014, 9:12 AM EDT

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

Is this really how a great career ends?

The once-star guard looked like a shell of himself. He had one really good game in the NBA Finals, but overall, he shot inefficiently from his best areas, failed to protect the ball and defended poorly. Worst of all, at his age, there’s often no coming back from that type of slippage.

Manu Ginobili did it, though.

Can Dwyane Wade?

The shooting guards have taken turns with depressing Finals, Ginobili last year and Wade this year. But, somehow, Ginobili – at age 36 – shook off blowing a 3-2 series lead last season.

“Every team we lost, it was so painful, because we always felt that we had a shot,” Ginobili said. “Well, you all saw what happened last year. And that was especially painful.

“We had it. I think I touched it. I don’t know if I dreamed it, but I thought I had it. And it was a very tough summer.”

Heartbroken, Ginobili considered retirement, but he ultimately re-signed with San Antonio, continued evolving and once again became one of the NBA’s best sixth men.

And he became mentally stronger.

Right after the Spurs fell behind 22-6 in last night’s Game 5 clincher, Ginobili converted a three-point play. On the ensuing defensive possession, he got tangled with Shane Battier, who fell to the court. Battier appeared to grab Ginobili’s leg and bring him down, too.

Ginobili got up, holding his back and looking ticked.

On the other side of the court, Ginobili drilled a 3-pointer. He still looked just as ticked.

When is the last time Wade showed such intense focus?

Winning makes players content, and it takes deliberate concentration to counteract that already-present satisfaction. Ginobili and Wade have won a championship the year after every one of their Finals losses – the Spurs this year and the Heat in 2012 after falling to the Mavericks in 2011. These are both competitors who don’t give up.

But as crazy as it sounds – and hindsight certainly plays a part – Wade, four years younger than Ginobili, might face a more difficult road back to prominence.

The Heat guard’s knee could prevent him from playing at a star level consistently again – unless Miami takes drastic steps.

Wade rested throughout the year, playing his fewest minutes per game of his career (32.9) and sitting out many games completely. He played well throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs and appeared ready for the Finals.

But as much as he insists health played no factor, Wade appeared to lose a half step in these last five games.

Even a reduced regular season with four rounds in the postseason might be too much for him at this point. Wade played 1,775 minutes this season – still more than Ginobili any of the last three seasons.

Gregg Popovich takes resting his top players to an extreme, and it paid off in another title. What works for Ginobili won’t necessarily work for Wade, but at this point, it might be worth trying.

Can Wade become the next Ginobili?

Seems silly to ask that about a player a few years older than the Heat star, but coming off a crushing Finals loss, there’s no better role model for Wade.

Wade can develop his game. He can get even more patient with resting. He can return and play with more passion than ever.

He just must hope his knee will let him.

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