Manu Ginobili is angry, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry

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There is a short list of NBA players who rational minds would advise against angering, as Mario Chalmers found out this week after shouting in rookie Blake Griffin’s general direction whilst standing behind LeBron James.

Kobe Bryant was once on that list, though now it would appear provoking him is sound strategy. After all, dealing with an aging Kobe Bryant hell bent on destroying teams one-on-everyone is still preferable to trying to contain their entire talented frontline. Even if doing so does backfire sometimes.

Manu Ginobili, however, is on that list. As of late he is angry, and opposing defenders shouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Questioned for pulling his starters with enough time still remaining for a comeback after a disastrous three-and-a-half quarters in New York, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich may have been doing more than resting his starters’ legs, he may have been pissing off Bruce Banner.

After a December-long shooting slump in which Ginobili averaged 15.7 points on only 40 percent shooting, Manu watched furiously from the bench as the final few minutes ticked away in a game that was still technically in doubt.

A night later, Ginobili took his frustrations out on some railing on his way to the locker room after the Spurs dropped a tight game to the Boston Celtics.

Now he merely takes out his frustrations on defenders. In the five games since the New York benching, Ginobili has averaged 22 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.

The lesson is, as always, it doesn’t pay to piss off Manu Ginobili (unless you’re Coach Pop).

Since fully taking the reigns of this team last Spring, Manu has been more vocal in correcting his teammates on the court, even as he encourages them off it. He could, if he so pleased, make a fine coach someday.

But there is something else to the Ginobili on display this season. The Argentine has always played with an edge, but this season that edge appears to be focused razor sharp. Perhaps sensing the importance of this season, with a diminishing future, every dribble, shot, and defensive stance has been made with extreme purpose and resolve.

Even as the Spurs cushion grows in the Western Conference, Ginobili realizes their margin for error is dwindling. This early run has bought some time and comfort, but also burden — this new opportunity could be the last, and as such, deserves no less than everything.

Popovich, who always has his finger on the pulse of his team better than any other coach in the NBA, appears to have tapped into this, unleashing an angry Ginobili on the rest of the league.

  • John in Austin

    I have watched every Spurs game so far this season and I have noticed that Manu looks P.O.ed most of the time. Even after he hit the game winner against the Bucks he looked more angry than happy. Maybe he was upset that the game even got to that point. He is also very animated with disgust on the bench when someone makes a mistake, more so than Pop sometimes. I like the intensity but Manu is going to go crazy if he doesn’t start having a little fun out there.

  • jwalt

    I too have not missed a game this year and I would categorize Manu’s body language as being focused as opposed to angry.

    I think he is enjoying this season more than any other. He’s a brand new father for one, secondly he does know that his career only has a few years left, and lastly he’s on a very, very good team.

    He is certainly taking on his leadership role with relish, which is another reason the Spurs are improved.

    And at the time I thought it was silly, but how do you measure Pop letting Manu coach the last minute of that exhibition game where Manu called up the last shot for Neal? Neal has said it gave his confidence a much needed boost — until then he wondered if he belonged. And how many big shots has Neal hit during the season?

  • DorieStreet

    I likened this season’s Spurs to basketball quid pro quo: the stellar play of Ginobili last spring, after 2 injury-plagued seasons, resulted in a new contract and all-in likely he finishing his NBA career in SA. The decision to not lead his Argentine national team in the FIBA championships is rewarded with a starting role and an unexpected transformation-the team’s game operation conforming to the near helter-skelter, whirling dirbish pace that is Manu’s trademark. The Spurs are his team now, not only relected in him being the leading scorer, but also in his fellow guard teammates always set the tempo and provide the edge most nights in attacking the opponent and establishing the Spurs’ stunning turnaround in 2010-11.

  • Shifty

    I agree with Jwalt, more than angry, he looks determined, even more than usual. If you follow him on Twitter you will notice how laid back he is, always joking and saying positive things.

  • john adams

    Unless you’re trying to pull a Joyce, reigns ≠ reins. River run …

  • Bruno

    If Ginobili don’t have injury this season we will be very happy…

  • LPspursFan

    Agree with all posters. After watching every game, some more than once (thank you, DVR) it seems that Manu is more determined than ever. The fact that he’s not afraid to get on one of his teammates for a missed assignment to me is more a signal of him being an extension of the coach on the court. Yeah, Pop could call a timeout and chew someone out, but Manu can get on his teammate during a dead ball and get the same message across without wasting the TO.
    I think the other thing that should be noted and applauded is that Manu’s teammates don’t take it personally when he gets on them. They know. They know his passion. They know why he is getting in their faces. They know what he is saying is what Pop would be saying and that it is the truth.
    As Spurs fans, we knew we were blessed to watch the Admiral. We knew we were doubly blessed when the ping pong balls fell our way and we landed Timmy D. But I don’t think we, as fans, have ever really given the same hallowed appreciation of what landing Manu Ginobili did for this franchise. (I don’t want to leave Tony Parker out because the essence of Spurs basketball is team play, and he has been as big a part of the team as anybody, but this story and post is about Manu.)
    Arguably, as Spurs fans, we have been graced with three of the greatest basketball players of all times, and I only hope that we can add ring No. 5 this season so that the rest of the basketball world can maybe open their eyes to the greatness that has been on display in San Antonio over the last decade.
    Go! Spurs! Go!

  • AS

    @ jwalt

    “He’s a brand new father for one”

    TWO!

    And that is one of several things I have in common with Manu. The others: I’m Argentine…the bald spot…and we love bball

  • DieHardSpur

    I have watched ever game for the last 2 years… Manu is one helluva basketball machine.

    When healthy, is unstoppable, and is arguably one of the top 5 players in the league… at 33 years old.

  • jwalt

    DieHardSpur, agree completely. I don’t think anyone in the league creates an offensive advantage for his team more than Manu does. His assist numbers are only average because so often he makes the pass that leads to the pass that creates the shot, or throws passes that lead directly to free throws for his teammates.

    If the league kept track of “hockey assists” and counted successful free throws as part of the assist stat Manu would shoot way up the rankings.

    Add the passion along the clutchness and you have a top five player.

  • jwalt

    For all Manu fans — before last season the Elias Sports Bereau was asked to do won-loss pct. for every game played for active and retired players.

    For active players, Manu was number one with a .724 winning pct. And he was first in playoff games as well (.654).

    Winning is Manu, Manu is winning.

    Now this was before the 2009-10 season began, but I’d be willing to bet he still is number one.

    And who was number one in the retired category? Larry Bird in the regular season and Magic Johnson in the playoffs.

  • ITGuy

    Ginobiliness; that’s what makes Manu the best.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • Tim
  • KOC

    Manu is like the rickety carnival ride that scares the hell out of you, but it also thrills you beyond comparison, and you can’t resist going on it again and again.

  • jwalt

    Tim, you have made my day. A huge thank you for this.

  • SpurredOn

    Check him out on the bench when the Spurs are on defense (usually the 2nd half of a game). When an opponent makes a lucky shot or the Spurs just miss a rebound or steal, you can see his body movement. He’s into all that is taking place, which means he’s living the goal he preached of wanting a better start to the season. I’m guessing that having last season end with a loss sweep, one year after the season ended with him in street clothes and unable to help his mates, has left him with that razor sharp focus. Just wait until he and Timmy are in playoff mode together.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Awesome story! Awesome posts! Awesome player!
    Pop’s successor may be playing right in front of him right now… Hmmm…
    :D

  • jwalt

    I don’t think Manu would ever coach. He wouldn’t be able to handle the losses. In that way he reminds me a lot of Jerry West, who had the same intense drive. And just like West, Manu wouldn’t be able to understand players who don’t care as much as he does. Which would be just about everybody.

    Everyone should go to that link that Tim provided above. It will make all Spur fans proud!

  • http://www.BibleStudyAudio.net Christian Techie

    Anybody remember what Kobe said about Manu on “Kobe doin’ Work”??

    “That’s a baaaaaad man.”

    The players know. And the players respect Manu. And he’s earned that respect.

  • Junierizzle

    My favorite player of all time, after Jordan.

  • Daniel T

    I’m thinking the simpler explanation could be that Manu had been having some allergy problems with the high pollen counts in San Antonio, and they cleared up by going on the road for a few days. For a while he had been indicating that he was having difficulties breathing through his nose and had to breath through his mouth, which makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

  • Bankshot21

    Great link. Not surprising though. Tim Duncan era has produced the winningest franchise in all of the major sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL). This is an incredible feat which is only continuing this season. All that urgency that you guys are mentioning is disheartening. We can be relevant for quite some time. Please stop being so pessimistic. Lol.

  • betsyduncan

    I think that we can all agree that Manu is the heart of this team.

  • Ekon

    I am hoping someday that George Hill will pass the ball to Splitter when the big guy is sliding to the rim….Hill intent or willingness to pass is in question in my I.M.O

  • Migs

    If defenders in the nba him make him more angry, he will morph to the MVP of the 2004 basketball Olympics….

  • Ray

    I wouldn’t say he’s angry but by now you should know that’s the way he plays. Lately though I’ve noticed a big change in him. Basketball used to mean everything to him but now that he has a family he’s becoming more invested with that (plus a lot of facebook/twittering). These days Manu only seems really motivated and angry when they need someone to step up or make something happen otherwise he just looks laid back and not even trying all that much to do anything out there. There’s already been several games where I’ve just seen him standing around not doing much out there on the court.

  • C

    I still remember that first game against Orlando last November when Dice didn’t cut after setting a pick for Manu. Manu was so pissed that he got into Dice’s face at the next deadball situation, and was still so pissed as he got to the bench for a breather. That man is intense, for sure.

    I can’t remember whether this is from one of his “Questions for Manu” segments in his website or one of the articles he writes there sometimes, but Manu said this a couple of years ago:

    “Are all players like this? Truth is I don’t think so, I sometimes see some colleagues or rivals very relaxed, easy and smiling after the losses and I think: why I can’t be that way? At the end of the day, they are only a couple of games of the 82 that the regular season have, aren’t them?. No, there’s nothing I could do, I am this way and it really bothers me to lose, it must be on the genes.”

  • Ward Silver

    I’ve been a die-hard Spurs fan-from-afar here in the ATL since the mid-90s. Since his arrival, Manu has grabbed my attention like no other.

    I watch every chance I get to see what he’ll do next. In a much subtler way, it’s how I felt having the opportunity to watch Greg Maddux take the mound here and work his magic with such precision, focus, and tenaciousness.

    Manu represents the very best the international game has offered the NBA, going back to the halcyon days of Drazen Petrovic. We as NBA fans are so much the better for this infusion of talent.

    What all these posts are talking around I would suggest, is that this is what an MVP plays, thinks, and acts like when he realizes a (team) championship is within reach and his example can make the difference in a league rich in stars but not so much in leaders.

  • http://searchingforslava.blogspot.com dave m

    As an periodic Lakers intruder here, I would echo the above line re: kobe, that “provoking him is sound strategy”. I hope players around the league adopt the tactic, each and every time. It would make me happy and would make the Lakers happy. Yes, he’s older now, yes he picks his spots. Please provoke him, he will no longer bite. Honest.

  • pn

    Manu has just twitted the above-mentioned article about him leading the NBA on winning percentage, writing “The pros of playing w great teammates & coaches!! Feels good to be there!”
    I hope he has a great night today… it would be awesome to hear the whole stadium singing during those last free throws…. “M-V-P!, M-V-P!”

  • stephen

    Great article! I have made this same observation this year. Manu looks pissed off and focused. You’ve gotta love it!

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  • Ruel

    It’s Manu War specially when he’s healthy and everybody on the team are healthy? I can’t wait for the play off comes? It’s going to be Now or Never. Just wondering if Manu ever used to or listening to Rata Blanca, Tierra Santa, Angeles Del Infierno, and some real European Heavy Metals or hear them before? You know what you’re gonna get when he’s healthy? It’s always a good show and makes you to forget if they win the game for us or lost? His commitment on the court which I appreciate the most since the day he join the Team as a San Antonio Spurs. I hope he can lend some CD’s to Tiago which he needs more to break free from silince, let it out his games, and go with the flow even thou for limited time of minutes in actions? His Raw Defense must show up and needs it more when the play off comes and what matter most? Not the type of player that I want him to be but I think he can do the job done!!! We must all have to move on and wish to our Team, Front Office, Coaching Staffs, and our Players and to their respectively families to Stay Humble and Healthy and together as a Team. We don’t need Love and Respect from the media, writes, and fans around the League? All those years, every year were the same. Expect Nothing and we don’t need to prove it? Our Team just need to earn that 5th Championship Ring and I’m one of them to Support them? Win or lose Keep Pounding the Rock San Antonio Spurs and give every team we face this year 48 minutes of Team Hell Defense!!!

    Keep putting Tiago and Manu together as the season goes even for limited minutes? Good things will result!!!