The Man Who Played

5 09 2008

During the NBA playoffs, the 6’5″ guard injured his ankle during his San Antonio Spurs’ loss to the Phoenix Suns.  The nagging injury hampered the normally dynamic player, limiting his effectiveness as the Spurs X-factor.    His game visibly flattened and San Antonio’s playoffs hopes floated down the river.

Manu took his bum ankle and flew across the world to represent his country.

Scorning his NBA coach, Manu Ginobili went to Beijing this summer and played for Argentinian Men’s Basketball Team.  Manu was their captain, their leading scorer and their flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies.

So coming off a first-round loss and a troubling injury, he felt well enough to strap up the sneakers and test the Chinese hardwood.  Unfortunately, he re-injured that left ankle during an elimination game against the US team.

A few days ago, Manu went to Los Angeles and had surgery on his left heel and ankle.  The guy’s going to be on crutches for three weeks plus two or three months of rehab. 

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs have delayed negotiations to extend Manu’s contract.  Manu’s agent says that “[they] want to see how [Manu] recovers from the surgery.” 

I wasn’t surprised to come across anger towards Manu for playing in the Olympics.  But I was surprised to see him being called selfish.  Manu Ginobili?  Selfish?

I suppose he takes his fair share of shots but really?  Selfish?  I’ll need that explained to me further.

The guy left Europe where he was making bank to join the Spurs, where he was the seventh or eighth guy on the roster.  Keep in mind that Manu was getting bites from other NBA teams where he could start and get a bigger slice of cheese.

He’s one of the most productive guards in the league and he’s ceded his starter status to Mike Finley for the good of the Spurs organization.  The man has the skills to demand the ball on every possession but he plays the team game.  And he’s being called selfish?

Manu is coming off a disappointing NBA finish where he could have taken it easy, rested his old body and lined up a good contract (see: Steve Nash).  Instead, he goes and plays hard for his country.  Selfish?  Really?

Manu doesn’t strike me as a stupid man.  If he were, he’d probably parlay his basketball clout into a maximum contract for a bad team.  So you have to think that his participation in the Olympics was highly calculated.

On one hand, he can play it safe and stay home.  He effectively chooses the San Antonio Spurs over Argentina’s national team.  It also puts him in good shape, contractually, as he is lowering his risk of aggravating his ankle.

On the other hand, he can play in the Olympics.  He effectively chooses the Argentinian team over the Spurs.  He has an opportunity to win a gold medal and gets to represent his country.

In terms of gain, the first option benefits his income while the second option benefits his nationalistic feelings.  So he can be seen as selfish that way.  He is chooses one constituency (Argentina) over another (Spurs fans).  Naturally, Spurs fans are miffed and confused by his measured gamble.

Another point to note is that most European teams hold the FIBA World Championships in higher regard than the Olympic gold medal.  This thought is paralleled by futbol’s World Cup having precedence over the Olympic soccer championship.  So why would Manu trade his NBA clout for a lesser tournament’s championship?

What do you think?  What would you have done and why did Manu do it?  Is it selfishness?


USA Demolishes Argentina

22 08 2008

In my best Bill Walton impression…

If ever there was a Basketball Dictionary, a picture of this version of the Dream Team would appear next to the definition of “Excellence.”  It would also appear next to the definition of “Teamwork,” “Hustle,” “Defense,” “Incredible,” “Domination” and “Bombastic.”

And by “bombastic,” I mean that the Red, White and Blue has just dropped a bomb on Argentina.  No, this was not a nuclear bomb but it was a different kind of bomb.  A bomb of goodness that has wakened the rest of the world and given them an envelope that contained an invitation to see how basketball should be played.  RSVP at your own risk, World.

The stirring giant that is the United States Basketball Program has finally emerged from its slumber.  Manu Ginobili, a bit player in the NBA, was just man-handled by Kobe Bryant.  Ginobili has a lot of heart but he just does not possess the skill nor basketball prowess of a Kobe Bryant.

Bryant is quite possibly the best living creature in the solar system.  Jason Kidd is the best leader in the history of Western civilization.  And LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were like streaking asteroids approaching the planet Argentina.  They’re just waiting to cripple it and begin a new Ice Age.  An age where USA rules supreme once again.

Their style is impetuous.  Their defense: impregnable.  And they are just ferocious.

Dwight Howard was like a man among boys walking around the playground and kicking Luis Scola and Fabricio Oberto off of the swings.  I can see it now: the parents come to defend Scola and Oberto until they realize that it is Dwight Howard.  And then they pay homage.  Throw it down, big man.  Throw it down!

Coach K is the greatest coach of all time.  His style of play has revolutionized the world of basketball.  Mike D’Antoni, Jim Boeiheim, Nate McMillan, and all of the assistant coaches should take a page out of this great one’s play book.  He is the epitome of class and the American way.

And now they have the Spanish team between them and their manifest destiny.  The gold medal is within reach.  It’s unfortunate that the Spanish team will only serve as a pedestal for this unbeatable, unbelievable, ubiquitous Team USA.  Soon, they will take the title of “Greatest Team of All Time.  Ever.”

… and end Bill Walton impression.

On the Road Back Home

14 05 2008

Interestingly enough, Manu Ginobili seems to have better statistical showings on road games. 

At home numbers:
17.9 points while shooting 44.9% from the field, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists

On the road numbers:
21.0 points while shooting 47.0% from the field, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists

Tim Duncan’s only home-to-road game difference shows up in point production: 18.3 points at home and 20.3 on the road.

None of the other notable Spurs showed drastic home-to-road statistical differences.

This is really inconclusive to me.  On home-cooking, the Spurs can better execute their defense-first gameplan.  They are a tremendous home-court team so a slow-paced game with an insistence on ball-control and good shots is just what the doctor ordered. 

During these playoffs, when the Spurs lose, they lose big.  And when they win, it’s always an entertaining game.  Game 6 in San Antonio is going to be great.