Manu’s impending return

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Six wins on the trot for the San Antonio Spurs and a 2-0 record thus far on the Rodeo Road Trip. Things are going good for the Spurs, especially when the Spurs’ defense is playing well. Now comes news that Manu Ginobili is “likely” to play on Saturday night in New Jersey. From Jeff McDonald of the Express-News:

“Probably New Jersey is the first time he’ll be allowed to play, I think,” Popovich said. “I think it’s likely.”

The last hurdle Ginobili must clear before Popovich will sign off on a return is a full-scale practice. With an extra day off between the Philadelphia and New Jersey games, that workout will come either Thursday or Friday in New York City.

If Ginobili passes that test, Popovich is likely to bring him off the bench against the Nets.

It makes sense that Pop will bring Manu off the bench for at least a couple of games when Ginobili returns. I’m wondering how long Manu comes off the bench. I’m starting to think that Manu shouldn’t return to the starting lineup at all.

We’ve seen the best of Tony Parker the last few games. Not only is he scoring at a high level, we’ve seen that before, but he’s also been distributing the ball well. He’s showing the type of offensive balance  that we’ve never seen from Parker. While I still think Manu is better at creating openings for others, Parker has done well feeding players when they’re open. If Manu returns to the starting lineup, he likely becomes the focal point of the offense and the team’s distribution center. Does that stymie the hot streak Tony Parker is on? Probably.

I like the idea of keeping Manu on the bench, giving him back his sixth man role.  This lets both players to be the focal point of the offense for long stretches of games and allows the Spurs to start a player focused on defending the other team’s best perimeter scorer, whether it be Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green.

There’s also the question of chemistry. Manu Ginobili plays well with DeJuan Blair. Blair starts. Tony Parker plays well with Tiago Splitter. Splitter comes off the bench. DeJuan Blair can’t come off the bench with Matt Bonner, the Spurs get killed inside. It’s like one of those mind games where you’re trying to fit different sized triangles in one larger triangle, and there’s only one formula for it.

I’m also curious to see whose minutes get cut into when Manu returns to the lineup. There’s 25-30 fewer minutes every night that go to Leonard, Green, Gary Neal and Richard Jefferson. In an ideal world, most of those minutes are cut from Jefferson’s totals. He’s playing the second most minutes per game behind Parker, so he’s got some to spare. Something tells me, though, that most of those minutes are going to be taken from Leonard, and some from Green and Neal. If that’s the case, I think it’s a mistake. Green and Neal can replace the shooting Richard Jefferson provides the Spurs’ lineup and Kawhi Leonard is a better rebounder and defender. It’s a personal preference thing for me, but I think there’s some merit to it.

One other interesting note from McDonald’s story on Manu’s imminent return, is the question about the D-League. The new CBA rules allow for teams to send guys to the D-League for rehab stints with the player’s consent. When Pop announce Manu’s likely return, thankfully someone had the confidence to ask him about possibly sending Manu to the D-League for some conditioning work:

Interestingly, Popovich was asked if he’d consider sending Ginobili to the Development League for a rehab assignment, which is allowed under the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement.

“I would but, I’m kind of worried guys would want to show him what they can do,” Popovich said. “It could be dangerous. You get some of those guys who have an opportunity to go at a player like that, measure themselves against him. I don’t want to do that.

“If he got hurt down there, I’d never forgive myself. He’s here with us. I might as well throw him in once he’s had enough contact.”

Good stuff.

  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    I certainly hope the minutes come from RJ and not because I think he is a bad player but because he has the most to spare. I want to keep the young guys on the floor as much as possible before playoffs.
    But I wonder if Pop can manage taking minutes from RJ (10 mill a year) to give to a bunch of young role players.
    I know Pop is the master of managing personalities but that could be an issue down the line.

  • Agutierrez

    Another player from whom minutes could and probably should, be taken is Tony. Yes, he’s playing out of his mind. But, even at 29, he can’t continue to play the minutes he’s playing and at the pace he’s playing without either running out of gas later in the season or risk a serious injury. He’s playing the minutes he’s playing and with the intensity he’s playing at least in part because Manu is out. Bottom line is that he needs to be full tilt come playoff time. Another point: at least part of why Tony’s assists are up is because of Tiago. The guy can flat pick and roll, something Timmy has never been that good at. John Stockton is considered one of the great p&r guys ever because he had Malone. Steve Nash had Amare all those years. Tiago has even made Gary Neal look like he’s played point all his life. 

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Great point

  • LosEspurs

    good stuff mcneill…  the TP/Tiago, Manu/Blair thought has some merit – we may be better served letting Manu and Blair come off the bench for a while to see what that does – even though we’d be giving up size.

  • Blaise Duran

    I would like to see Manu’s return to the lineup reduce TPs, RJs, and Neals minutes.  TP because I’d like to rest him more, RJ because he’s only okay and plays a fair number of minutes already.  Neal because he hasn’t really been playing that well.  The only thing he really adds over other players is shooting, and he’s been very inconsistent.  He has a TS% of 49.5 right now.  Not good. Pop says he’s still not 100% and I believe him, so let’s bring him along slowly and let him earn his minutes back.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IYOK27SYODWR5EOM2SJLHWK4G4 WAMBO

    Manu going to D league to rehab or get some contact?  It would be cool for the fans cause tickets are cheaper but would be too dangerous.

    I can’t see anyone sending there stars to D Legue to rehab.

    Glad to see our D is improving, we are shooting better not great, Manu is comming back but we still need help from the Center Position. We need a center that has fast legs or can defend the pick n’ roll

  • icekopi

    i think Manu should come off the bench as the PG for the 2nd unit since TJ is still weeks away. it takes the load off TP a bit but that will be good come closer to post season with TP still fresh.. the other advantage is that, if you have noticed, when TP takes a break, the offense is usually spotty and the team relies on defense to get by while he sits – with Manu taking over, the offense can keep going and Neal can come off the bench in his natural position. i don’t think pairing either Blair or Tiago with Manu makes a difference… but i do agree Bonner and Blair should never be on the same court at the same time. looking at it in another way, i am predicting the person who get his minutes cut the most with Manu’s return is actually Blair… Pop will insert Tiago for longer stretches because he can play with both TP and Manu.. RJ’s minutes will never go to Manu and instead be given to Green when we need more defense.. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/WBPW327T6XAZCCFQY25HBG6RE4 Cristian

    I knew when Manu went down we will basically loose Blair too. He is too dependent on Manu’s insane passing. But we also lost a little bit of the rest of the guys, like RJ, Bonner, Neal, Splitter too. Even a little bit of Duncan and Parker. We all have been impressed how well Duncan has played recently, showing us he can still get it done. But he still needs Manu to make his life easier. And Parker has just been superb. But Parker has had to do it mostly on his own. There isn’t anyone really who can create scoring opportunities for him. He has to do it basically for himself. But Manu was setting him up from time to time for some nice easy baskets. Just raises the appreciation for what Parker has done in Manu’s absence. 
    What we gained without Manu is Green and Leonard. But you figure with Manu’s return, their life on the offensive end should get easier. 
    So Manu’s return should make everyone else better. The question is, which ones need it the most. Most obvious is Blair. But I think the best thing would be to have Manu coming off the bench. This way, the Spurs offense 
    almost
     shouldn’t stall at all at any point in a game. So bring Blair off the bench at the same time as Manu and start Bonner. But that can cause all together other problems.
    In the end is pointless for us to try and rack our brains figuring the best way to bring Manu back because Pop is gonna do what Pop’s gonna do. And I for one have complete trust in him, even though sometimes it happens I don’t agree completely with him. 

  • Jwill1919

    I can’t wait to see RJs minutes disappear!!  He brings nothing to the floor that ANY of the aforementioned(Kawhi,Green and Neal) can give the Spurs.  I’d still contend that I wish Anderson was getting more of RJs minutes.  Ideally, RJs minutes disappear and go to Kawhi and Green, while TPs gets more breaks with Manu running the point a bit more allowing Gary Neal to go back to his Microwave role of being our spark shooting guard off the bench.

  • http://twitter.com/kmgospurs Kristen Mullen

    The more I think about it the more I wouldn’t be opposed to sending Manu to D League (can you imagine how many tickets they would sell).  At least there he can get in shape, conditioning, and rhythm without just being thrown in the fire and that way it doesn’t hurt the chemistry the team has right now.  Tony’s fine.  He’s young, can handle long minutes, and not fragile like Manu.  Besides Manu’s shouldn’t have to play point guard out there.  

  • Deeds130

    Pop could have just answered McDonald, “No.” Since that is what he meant, instead of that “I would, but” response.

    Manu WILL take mins from TP, & I hope both get lighter mins once TJ returns. Taking mins from RJ would be great, as it means continued opportunity for KL & DG, but I’m not banking on Pop doing that. As I outlined in a previous thread, Neal will continue to get his minutes (just like Bonner & RJ do), on account of shooting. DG & KL will see their minutes vary erratically night-to-night, and are competing against eachother for time on the floor.

  • Deeds130

    Blair still has to play next to Timmy, or in spot minutes during small-ball situations. Translation: Blair continues to start.

    I know this will never happen (ESPECIALLY with this new&improved TP), but I have been saying for years that TP is dream of a NBA 6th man: instant offense, and good enough off-the-ball to back up either guard spot, or close out games next to either starting guard.  I mention it here, b/c it’s the only solution to McNeil’s triangle conundrum. Manu is paired with Blair and TD, while Tony & Tiago are paired off the bench. 

    In the end, it doesn’t matter much who starts… come playoff time, Blair won’t get many 4th qtr minutes regardless of the fact that he plays best with Manu. Splitter has to continue to come off the bench, due to the limitations of Bonner and Blair. We can only hope that Splitter’s mins will not only increase, but that:
    1) the Brazilian gets more time to develop chemistry with TD.
    2) Manu has been watching TP and Tiago, and will look for Tiago more upon his return.
    We will need these two things (that is, establishing Splitter’s chemistry with our best players) come playoff time.

  • Anonymous

    With regards to this article…it states the Manu off the bench theory I’ve been advocating and the reasons for it.

    This quote… “There’s also the question of chemistry. Manu Ginobili plays well with
    DeJuan Blair. Blair starts. Tony Parker plays well with Tiago Splitter.
    Splitter comes off the bench. DeJuan Blair can’t come off the bench with
    Matt Bonner, the Spurs get killed inside. It’s like one of those mind
    games where you’re trying to fit different sized triangles in one larger
    triangle, and there’s only one formula for it.” … is the catch 22 of the situation.

    Solution?
    Don’t worry about getting more from Blair.  Pairing Tiago with Manu off the bench will yield the same current results as Parker paired with Splitter.  I think it more important for the team to regulate Parker’s and Manu’s minutes productively than to worry about making Blair produce better.  Blair’s role…to concentrate on the only thing he should be concentrating on in a game…block outs, boards and put backs.  If the occasional easy basket comes his way…great…but no longer consciously involve him as an early option to the offense.

  • Anonymous

    With regards to this article…it states the Manu off the bench theory I’ve been advocating and the reasons for it.

    This quote… “There’s also the question of chemistry. Manu Ginobili plays well with
    DeJuan Blair. Blair starts. Tony Parker plays well with Tiago Splitter.
    Splitter comes off the bench. DeJuan Blair can’t come off the bench with
    Matt Bonner, the Spurs get killed inside. It’s like one of those mind
    games where you’re trying to fit different sized triangles in one larger
    triangle, and there’s only one formula for it.” … is the catch 22 of the situation.

    Solution?
    Don’t worry about getting more from Blair.  Pairing Tiago with Manu off the bench will yield the same current results as Parker paired with Splitter.  I think it more important for the team to regulate Parker’s and Manu’s minutes productively than to worry about making Blair produce better.  Blair’s role…to concentrate on the only thing he should be concentrating on in a game…block outs, boards and put backs.  If the occasional easy basket comes his way…great…but no longer consciously involve him as an early option to the offense.

  • grego

    Manu should come off the bench until TJ is back. It makes the most sense since Spurs are without a backup PG. This would give the units the most stability and give Parker more consistent legs throughout the game. It would also help the second unit with some of their dry spells on offense, even though their defense has been fairly consistent. 

  • grego

    Solid post. +1

  • grego

    RJ’s minutes have already been reduced. The problem with Leonard is he needs offensively able units to be able to contribute, since he can be up and down on that side. Green, can definitely benefit from units that have more offense since he needs open shots to get back on track. 

    I see Neal losing minutes once TJ and Manu are back. He’ll get minutes in games where he shoots well, but his lack of defense, should keep him out of the game if he’s not hitting. There’s far too little benefit otherwise. 

  • grego

    RJ’s minutes will not disappear. Bank on that. 

  • grego

    Tiago and Parker pairing has been perfect. I’m not sure what Tiago has lost. Only when Parker was not in games, did Tiago miss out. So yes, he lost out without Manu and TJ there to get him the ball more, but Parker/Tiago is a super solid pair. 

    The problem with starting Bonner is that Blair/Splitter is a lousy pairing. 

  • Bob

    Pop had no problem going with Bonner/Blair of the bench because he wanted to start Dice. Tiago is better than Dice.

  • grego

    Although Bonner has limitations, he’s pretty versatile. He can play in any lineups. That’s why Pop can roll with him and Duncan or him and Splitter. Blair is the only one who isn’t versatile. I consider that more limited than anything. 

    Yes, Spurs can roll with small ball with Blair, but then they lack so much size, that you better be playing a smaller team. 

  • Anonymous

    If  1 & 2 happen get ready for this team to do some major damage in the playoffs especially if we are all healthy. Gotta love it. 

  • Anonymous

    Can you imagine when Manu and TJ come around oh my!

  • Anonymous

    I know, all he has to do is hit one 3 from the arc and Pop will play long minutes. Is he that better than KL on defense? KL has been hitting those 3′s as well in the last couple of games. 

  • Anonymous

    Pop was in a good mood. Bet you couldn’t tell? I could.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think he makes that Bonner/Blair mistake again in the playoffs though.

  • Deeds130

    That’d be TP, Manu, TD, Splitter + any 5th player depending on matchups and who is/isn’t hot, whether RJ, KL, Green, or Neal. Gotta get Tiago more court-time with the stars.

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  • Fkj74

    Personally I cannot wait to see Spliiter and Manu together  out there with Bonner, Neal, and Green or Leonard.That bench will be awesome!! 

  • grego

    Well James Anderson isn’t going to gain minutes, especially if his significant other keeps tweeting about him not playing. She’s going to put him in the permanent dog house. 

    “THE COACH HAS 2 BUMS PLAYING IN FRONT OF HIM…. ITS RIDICULOUS !!!!!!!!!! “

  • grego

    Yep. This is why Blair starts and Tiago doesn’t. 

  • grego

    Most of that unit can pass pretty well. That unit should have a lot of solid ball movement. 

  • grego

    Shooters got to keep shooting though. RJ’s minutes have been reduced so Pop is adjusting. 

  • Jakesc2324

    Neal is the shit. He was scoring and creating a lot of offense with tiaggo in the pick and roll agaist philly. 18 points 5 rebounds and 6 assists says that neal is ready. obviously backed by some other big games such as houston with 15 points 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He hasn’t been as efficient as last year but he has done his job for a bench player. especially for a bench player returning from having time off the court.

  • Jakesc2324

    He also had 19 points 4 rebounds and 7 assists against dallas.* forgot to give other example of a big game

  • Anonymous

     TP off the bench?  (That’s not a question more so than a reflection response.)

    I’d be all for it in order to continue the chemistry being built.  That… or the response I posted later which states why worry about getting Blair involved if Manu could manifest the same chemistry with Tiago with the second unit.

    Point being…this team now has better options with Parker/Duncan and then Ginobili/Splitter than to worry about Blair getting his.  From this point forward…Blair should not be considered a “tandem” possibility and serve the team more as a big body presence on the court who’s main focus should be setting screens, boxing out, and crashing boards.

  • Ace

    Thats way the spurs need a center…….so that TIAGO SPLLITER be the starting center……make sense…..!!!

  • Anonymous

     Agree with reducing Parker’s minutes.  Temporarily off the bench would do that…but would seriously effect the starting lineup which already suffers from low point totals.  AS good as Ginobili is…I don’t think he would compensate enough the loss of Parker from the starting unit.  Keeping Parker/Duncan with a better surrounding cast (perhaps Jefferson off the bench insert Leonard and Neal as starters) and then having Manu/Splitter leading the second unit would still provide the Spurs the offensive punch and defensive presence while allowing Parker to reduce his time through substitution?

  • Blaise Duran

    He has definitely had great games, but he hasn’t been having a great season. He didn’t shoot well in the games just before Philly.  I like Neal, but I don’t think he’s back to form.  I also think that he adds a lot loss value with Manu back since Manu can take over the back up point duties unitl TJ is back.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RY4VLAMPXV737OYRWOFUM2XKAU Sean

    It will be curious to see how Pop distribute minutes ,i also think R.J. minutes should be cut,he kind gone back his old ways of not looking to shoot.I am afraid you right that kawai minutes be cut because i see pop favoring green defense more than lenoard.Pop been playing players in match up situation which is good but,most teams even past spurs teams like to have consistant rotation.I think he continue play almost 10 player rotation because back to back games that keep everyone fresh.Now when it comes last 10 games season and playoffs you see rotation develop.Tony Parker minutes will be cut  also  rest him as Ginobilli play more point guard backup over neal.I wont trade anyone for center now,because u giving away players that geling in rotation and contrubuting.The spurs can play big with Duncan & Spitter in playoffs and rotate blair and bonner with one big on floor at all times. I go with team we have now barring no injuries because they better last year team.As every one focus on Howard we can make call kevin garnett who free agent in summer and kayman can be pursued with out giving up young talent,plus this summer draft 2012 wil be most talented in years.VERY DEEP DRAFT
    I love have front line of kawai lenoard-Kevin Garnett-Tim Duncan for 2 more years.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RY4VLAMPXV737OYRWOFUM2XKAU Sean

    Manu off bench is good idea,and may be better balance in rotation for this team get back finals but pop has given manu starting spot because he has sacrifice earlier years as six man which had cost him more all-star appearances and nominations as one best players in nba .He has acheive that status by becoming starter last 2 yrs by national media even though us spurs fans in san antonio know he one best.This guy still the key for championship run as his health going into playoffs has be 100 percent.He best foreign player in nba hans down,sorry DIRK!!! but you dont have Olympic gold medal,3-NBA championships-2 Europe chamionships.
    hardware speak for itself. MANU # 20 HANG FROM RAFTERS IN NEAR FUTURE as maybe hall-fame nomination would be nice.

  • Anonymous

    MANU # 20 HANG FROM RAFTERS IN NEAR FUTURE as maybe hall-fame nomination would be nice. – 

    That’s a slam dunk no brainer. Manu for President! Too bad he’s not American born.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Dooley/9203055 Joseph Dooley

    Jason Terry won the 6th man award a couple of years ago coming off the bench. You lose a lot of offense from either Parker or Ginobili with both of them out there on the floor together for long stretches of time.

  • JustinFL

    couldn’t agree more as to Blair’s role going forward in the season.

  • Mcarewin

    no. 1 MANU GINOBILI nothing comes next

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