SAN ANTONIO — As the clock ticked down on the San Antonio Spurs’ season and Manu Ginobili was pulled from the game, a thunderous roar from the home crowd guided him to the bench.
Ginobili wore an appreciative but quizzical look on his face as he put a warm-up shirt back on and prepared to head off into the summer. Clearly, the fans were saying goodbye to one of the most popular players in Spurs history.
Ginobili was not ready to do the same: He posted a message on his Twitter account on Wednesday that he was re-signing with San Antonio for another season, which will be his 16th with the Spurs.
“It felt like they wanted me to retire,” Ginobili said with a smile after the Spurs were swept out of the Western Conference finals in four games by the Golden State Warriors. “Like they were giving me sort of a celebration night. And of course, I’m getting closer and closer.”
Save those goodbyes for at least another year.
Ginobili averaged 7.5 points and 18.7 minutes a game last season. In 15 seasons as a Spur, he ranks in the top five in franchise history in points (13,467), games (992), assists (3,835) and steals (1,349).
Ginobili, a 6-foot-6 Argentine guard who will turn 40 on July 28, has been a part of four of the Spurs’ five N.B.A. championships. A member of the famed three-player core with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, Ginobili may be the most beloved member of the group. His heart-on-his-sleeve approach stands out in a subdued Spurs culture, and his flair for the dramatic has been an integral part of the Spurs’ success.
His block of a James Harden shot in overtime helped the Spurs clinch a win over the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals last season.
His overall numbers were down, but he remains important to the Spurs as they chase Golden State in the West. Last season, the Spurs’ first since Duncan retired, Coach Gregg Popovich leaned more on Parker and Ginobili to be vocal leaders.
“Timmy’s not a big rah-rah guy,” Popovich said in March. “He didn’t wave a towel. He would talk in timeouts. He’d put his arm around people. Manu and Tony have been more vocal in that regard. They talk to the team more than I do. They talk to individuals. They’ve really taken on that mantle, and it’s helped.”
The Spurs won 61 games last season but were overwhelmed by the Warriors in the conference finals after Kawhi Leonard sustained an ankle injury in Game 1. After missing out on adding the All-Star guard Chris Paul through free agency, they re-signed guard Patty Mills, added the veteran forward Rudy Gay and the summer league standout Brandon Paul, and are expected to bring back center Pau Gasol as well.
The understated off-season fits the Spurs more closely than two years ago when they signed LaMarcus Aldridge to a max deal. Given that Parker figures to miss a good chunk of the start of the season with a quadriceps injury sustained in the playoffs and that Jonathon Simmons left for a three-year deal with Orlando, Ginobili’s return means even more.
Ginobili averaged 13.8 points in a little more than 20 minutes a game in last season’s playoff series against the Warriors, shooting 58.8 percent. After the final game, he said, “I do feel like I can still play,” and he got no argument from Golden State.
“He kind of worked us pretty good these four games,” the Warriors’ Draymond Green said. “So, I think he’s got quite a bit left in the tank. Obviously, it’s up to him how much longer he wants to go. But one thing about it, he’s definitely not a liability on the floor.”
Published at Thu, 20 Jul 2017 00:10:10 +0000