Manu’s impending return
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.”