Trying to predict what you are going to get from the San Antonio Spurs’ Manu Ginobili is no easy task. The 6-foot-6 Argentinean is considered one of the most fearless, competitive players in the NBA because of the way he throws his body around like a rag doll on every play. But for as great as Ginobili is, one of his problems over the years has been his ability to stay healthy.
In his 12-year NBA career, he has only played over 80 regular season games once. Over the last three regular seasons combined, he has played in 162 out of a possible 246 contests. Part of that is because of the way his head coach Gregg Popovich uses his lineups, where he elects to rest key players like Ginobili during the regular season to save them for the playoffs. But some of it is also Ginobili getting injured and not being able to be on the court.
Now, at 37, many figure Ginobili has one, maybe two years left. It is actually pretty shocking he is still playing highly effective basketball considering the pounding he has gone through in his NBA career. But he is still here, and Popovich has gone to great lengths to preserve his career with the team, including denying him the right to play with Argentina this summer due to a slight stress fracture in his right leg.
After a disastrous 2013 NBA Finals, Ginobili had a bounce-back season for the Spurs last year. As he has done throughout his career, Ginobili was fine being the sixth man off the bench, averaging 12.3 PPG, 4.3 APG and 3.0 RPG on 47 percent shooting from the field and a 35 percent mark from outside. It is pretty much a given that Ginobili is going to be an effective player when he is on the court and not battling through a nagging injury.
He will make a poor pass or turnover every once in a while, but then he will make up for it with a gutsy three-pointer or home-run dish to one of his teammates in transition. To put it simply, it is impossible to predict what Ginobili will do next. And that’s what makes him so much fun to watch.
Ginobili is now entering his 13th season in the NBA in the last year of his contract. The only consistent thing about Ginobili’s game is his efficient statistical output off the bench. From a statistical standpoint, I see him averaging around 11.2 PPG, 3.9 APG and 2.8 RPG with good shooting percentages from the floor. Popovich will probably rest him between five to ten games this season, and Ginobili will probably suffer an injury or two that will keep him out another five to ten contests.
The most important thing for Ginobili is his health near the end of the regular season heading into the playoffs. As long as he is healthy when the team is hitting their stride at the right time, all is well once again for the Spurs. He is still a huge part of this Spurs team even though he comes off the bench, and he is a gigantic reason as to why the Spurs have the best bench unit in the league.
Even at his age, Ginobili will still play the game like he is in his 20s. There is something refreshing if equally terrifying about that if you are a Spurs fan. As long as he still has energy to rise up and throw down a hammer over someone like Chris Bosh, Ginobili will be a feared player in the league.
The saying “expect the unexpected” aptly fits the way Ginobili continues to play the game of basketball, and it is still a beautiful thing to behold.