An offseason full of overhaul for the San Antonio Spurs could be on the verge of one more significant departure.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that guard Manu Ginobili, a franchise icon who has spent his entire NBA career in San Antonio, is “seriously considering retirement” rather than coming back for a 17th season as a Spur, and that while no final decision has yet been made, the Argentine playmaker will meet with head coach Gregg Popovich to discuss his future “in the coming days.”
In a sense, this latest report doesn’t represent much of a change from Ginobili’s last public comments on the matter, which came after the Golden State Warriors knocked off the Spurs in five games in the opening round of the 2018 playoffs back in April.
“I’ve been contemplating retirement forever,” Ginobili told reporters. “Nothing has changed. I just don’t know. I’ll let a month, two months go by and then I’ll see how I feel. I’m not the type of guy that makes decisions on the fly, when you’re upset, hurt or whatever. I usually let it sink in and see how it feels.”
What has changed, though, is the date on the calendar. The Spurs want him back, and don’t plan to rush his decision — they’re “allowing him to take all the time he needs,” according to Woj — but training camp starts in about a month, and after a summer of working out at the Spurs’ practice facility, Ginobili still hasn’t come down one way or the other.
Even at age 41, with 1,275 regular- and postseason games and nearly 33,000 NBA minutes on his body — on top of all the miles he logged during the seven seasons he spent as a pro in Argentina and Italy before coming over to the NBA in 2002, and in a legendary career with the Argentine national team that spanned nearly two decades — Ginobili’s still capable of helping the Spurs. His own shooting numbers have declined in recent years, but he remained a productive ball-handler and facilitator off the bench last season; San Antonio scored 3.4 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor than off it last season, according to NBA.com’s stat tool. And in the postseason, with the Spurs drawing dead against a vastly superior Warriors team and facing elimination, Ginobili dug deep and showed out, scoring 16 points with five assists and three rebounds to stave off elimination in Game 4 before chipping in 10 points, seven assists and five boards in the eventual Game 5 defeat.
He’s steps slow, now, on the defensive end — kind of par for the course once you’ve crossed over to the wrong side of 40 — and he can’t play big minutes anymore. But Ginobili can make plays in the minutes he gets and, perhaps more importantly in the specific context of the Spurs, he can still deliver the kind of moments — turn-back-the-clock drives, no-look feeds, seeing-eye dimes that look like optical illusions once they leave his hand before weaving their way through traffic and finding their destination in defiance of physics — that evoke pure joy in San Antonio’s fans. After a summer that saw both the disappointing end to the hoped-for Kawhi Leonard era and Tony Parker bidding a fond farewell to Texas, Spurs fans could really use some more of that right about now.
Ginobili told reporters in April that his decision, whenever he actually makes it, will come down to “a matter [of] if I see myself as an ex-player or not — when I do balance [everything], if I see that I … that it’s enough, or not.” After a summer of working out, the future Hall of Famer’s apparently still not sure if he sees himself that way. Maybe a conversation with Pop will help clear that up; hopefully, for the sake of all of us who aren’t quite ready to say that we’ve seen the last of his singular brilliance, he once again comes down in favor of one more ride.
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