Manu Ginobili yells at his teammates more often than any other Spur. This is a good thing.
Nearly every recap of last night’s game is taking the same tact: Ginobili’s passion fueled the Spurs’ victory. “He’s a gamer,” they say.
This sounds right to me. Although, Manu Ginobili’s stat line might not lead one to this conclusion. Ginobili shot poorly from the field and line (5-13; 0-3; 7-13) and committed 5 turnovers, a few of which were cringe-worthy. On the positive side of the stat sheet, Ginobili produced a game high plus-16, came up with 4 steals, a block, and crashed the boards for 7 rebounds, every one of which was crucial against the glass-eating Grizzlies.
But this is entirely too two dimensional. Ginobili’s greatest contribution to the game may have come in deadball situations. He’s the Spurs’ most stentorious player. Vocal. Emotive. Freewheeling. Ginobili feeds himself in this way, and the Spurs feed off him. When Manu Ginobili is off the court, the world is flat.
For all the advance of advanced statistics, one still can not give a proper account of the positive effects of passion on performance. I’m not a fan of Kevin Garnett’s on-court behavior. But watching Ginobili, I know there is some virtue beneath Garnett’s barking. And I know Tony Allen’s contribution to the Grizzlies goes beyond what we see on the stat sheet. Allen plays with passion too. Memphis is fundamentally different without his swagger.
It comes down to this. Passion is a skill. Energy is a skill. Some kinds of crazy help. These things are hard to quantify, but they’re impossible to miss.
The Spurs live in cerebral tents. Calm. Controlled. Contemplative. They come a little unglued at the sound of whistles, but, in the main, they walk the line. This isn’t always good. Occasionally, when one is punched in the nose, it does no good to analyze the situation. It’s much better to simply, viscerally lob a few jabs the other direction. I’m glad Ginobili yells at his teammates. The Spurs play better with his added measure of scrap.
When Tim Duncan isn’t on the court, the Spurs lose a bit of their intellect. When Ginobili goes missing, the Spurs lose their heart.
Last night, the Spurs won on the strength of their heart.