Manu Ginobili has been a key offensive factor for the San Antonio Spurs for the better part of 11 years. As the clock winds down on Ginobili’s career, one should question ways to prolong the inevitable. The recent hamstring injury sustained by Ginobili should lead Gregg Popovich to pay closer attention to the health of his star guard and rest him more.
After Ginobili’s horrific performances in Games 6 and 7 of the 2013-14 NBA Finals, it became clear that fatigue and age were issues affecting his game. The season had taken a toll on his body and caused him to make critical errors in late-game situations. In an effort to avoid the same mistake twice, the Spurs must become creative in their time management of the former sixth man of the year.
The increase in points per game from 11.7 to the current 12.6 is encouraging, but the production of the Spurs’ bench can give Ginobili some relief. Manu does not have to carry the weight of the bench scoring with capable players such as Marco Bellinelli and Patty Mills averaging a combined 18.7 points per game. With the top ranked bench in the league, the Spurs can take advantage of sitting Ginobili more often than usual. The more rest he can get heading into the second half of the season, the better off he will be able to produce in the playoffs.
The next statement may sound audacious, but Popovich should take a page out of the Erik Spolstra book. The Miami Heat usually do not allow Dwyane Wade to play the second game of a back-to-back night. They use this tactic to preserve Wade’s knees for a third championship run. If Popovich can implement a similar strategy to prevent injuries to Ginobil’s aging body, the Spurs can reap the benefits of one of the most underrated players in the game.