A day after agreeing to terms with Tiago Splitter, the San Antonio Spurs have agreed to re-sign another key rotation piece, Manu Ginobili, to a two-year/$14 million contract. Ginobili is coming off an up and down season which saw him average 11.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in 60 regular season games and very similar numbers (on poorer shooting percentages) during the Spurs’ deep playoff run.
Ginobili is clearly not the player he once was, as he has constantly battled injuries and the onset of age the past few seasons. His reckless, acrobatic style of play is just no longer possible at his current age. This past season, Ginobili struggled primarily with his consistency. It was almost as if he became two different players. At times, he looked like the dynamic star who amazed us over the past decade with his vintage Euro-steps and amazing assists. This good version of Manu last appeared in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, where his 24-point/10-assist performance led the Spurs to a 3-2 series lead. But the bad version, which is unfortunately the version most remember today, showed up the next game when he had a career-high eight turnovers. Still, I think Ginobili has a lot to offer for these last two years, on and off the court, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he has a renaissance of sorts next season. I do think it would serve him well if for next season he refines and focuses on certain aspects of his game, like his three-point shooting and distributing, and is not as much the reckless slasher he has been in the past. The best players evolve their game as their careers progress and I believe Ginobili can and will do the same.
The Ginobili re-signing all but confirms that, as we have come to expect, the Spurs front office is not going to make a big splash in free agency. Rather, they will stick to their guns and bring back the same core players; which is what they have done during Tim Duncan’s entire career and what they will continue to do until he retires. The only remaining question mark on the Spurs’ roster is now restricted free agent Gary Neal. This move means the Spurs will likely exceed the salary cap of $58.5 million, in order to access the full Mid-level exception (around five million dollars) to pursue extra wing depth. They are rumored to be connected to a handful of players who would fit this billing, we will have to wait and see how things play out.
This contract will more than likely be the last Ginobili, 35, ever signs, meaning he will end his career with the same NBA team he started it with, the Spurs. In fact, Ginobili’s new deal coincides with both Tim Duncan‘s (assuming he picks up his player option) and Tony Parker‘s, which all expire at the end of the 2014-2015 season, meaning we now have what seems to be a finite date for the end of the Big-3 era for San Antonio. Parker will certainly continue to play in San Antonio or elsewhere for a few more years after 2014-2015, but all things point to Ginobili and Duncan hanging them up at this point. If the Spurs are to win their elusive fifth championship before the end of the Big-3 era, Ginobili must play a key role in their doing so.