No Manu, No renew? No problem. Manu Ginobili signs extension with the San Antonio Spurs
Elusive as he’s been on the court since March, it was in the San Antonio Spurs best interests to lock up Manu Ginobili before he was allowed to euro step his way through free agency, lest he escape the Spurs like so many would be defenders.
The soon-to-be 33-year old Argentine guard signed a three year contract extension. The Spurs, sticking with their policy of not disclosing such details, did not comment on the contract’s worth. But Jeff McDonald of the Express News is reporting a deal worth $38.9 million for Ginobili.
The deal, which includes a trade kicker, is scheduled to pay Ginobili approximately $11.8 million next season, $12.9 million in 2011-12 and $14.1 million in 2012-13. It is a hefty but necessary toll for a player who will be 36 at deal’s end, especially in light of the $10 million luxury tax bill the Spurs have coming due this summer.
This extension probably ensures that Ginobili finishes his career with the Spurs—or at least the last of his best years.
Gregg Popovich offered this comment, “It is quite obvious how important Manu has been to our program. It is a great feeling to know that one of the best players in the world will continue to be a Spur.”
Terms of the deal do not come without risks. Already paying roughly $10 million in luxury tax this year, every dollar given to Manu Ginobili will have to be matched in tax payments. And for a guard on the wrong side of 30 who has already proven to be injury prone, there is no telling what Ginobili will look like at the end of the next season, let alone the end of his new contract.
But understand this is a deal that had to be done.
Financially, the potential amount of money the Spurs would have lost at the gate had they lost Ginobili, the city’s most popular player, without making any other key additions (even had his contract expired, the Spurs were still over the salary cap) would have made just as significant an impact as the luxury tax payments Spurs owner Peter Holt will have to endure.
Or, as Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News put it:
Barring some payroll gymnastics between now and then, the Spurs will be luxury-tax payers again next season. Every dollar they offer Ginobili must be paid twofold.
On the other hand, if the Spurs allow Ginobili to leave, they can brace for an inevitable backlash at the box office. As one group of Spurs season-ticket holders has put it: “No Manu, no renew.”
From a basketball perspective, even taking into account Ginobili’s age and history, this is a sound move by the R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich and the rest of the Spurs front office.
Manu Ginobili, along with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are and always were the championship core, and even if it proves itself not to be a championship core moving forward this was always the right move.
Right now, name five players in the NBA who are playing better basketball or are more impactful players than Manu Ginobili. There aren’t five. There may not even be three. As Popovich said, Ginobili is Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan without the otherworldly athleticism.
Before Johnny Ludden and Adrian Wojnarowski broke news of the impending deal, Kelly Dwyer tried to set that the value for a player who could be every bit as good as Kobe Bryant, just not for as long:
A guy who, per-minute and when healthy, is just as good as Kobe Bryant and Brandon Roy. The problem with that is this is per-minute, and when healthy. And history tells us that a 33-year old Manu might play 65 games, he’s not going to be able to play a Kobe or Roy-level of minutes, and there’s certainly no guarantee that he’ll be healthy. Whether that means dragging his legs through games, or missing them altogether. That’s not even factoring in the expected drop off because he’ll be a year older.
And he is not worth the figures we’re tossing around. Even Manu at his best—a Kobe for 31 minutes per game—isn’t worth that sort of money.
The Spurs, however, have never been overly concerned about the regular season and it’s not Ginobili’s job to be that guy over the first 82 games. Even as he ages, we’ve already seen in glimpses this season of how a diminished Manu Ginobili can still be a key piece to a contending team.
In my mind, a further aged Ginobili is as valuable as this season’s Jason Kidd. An extremely intelligent player whose sense of how to make the right play at the right time can still fuel a contending team.
Earlier in the season, before it became apparent that Manu Ginobili was still capable of being what we’ve seen the past month, I wrote that even as a role player he was more valuable to the Spurs than most.
Offensively, even without huge scoring number Ginobili keeps the Spurs system in place. As so many of you have pointed out, Tony Parker is not a true point guard. Parker, and for that matter, the Spurs, are at their best when he can concentrate on what he does best: which is to score at an efficient rate. Pairing Ginobili’s playmaking abilities from the shooting guard position with Parker’s scoring abilities keeps the Spurs situation from devolving into something similar to what the Warriors experience with Monta Ellis (not to say that Parker is anywhere near as oblivious as Ellis can be).
So if Manu Ginobili cannot be what he is currently for an entire season, it’s Gregg Popovich’s job to limit Ginobili’s minutes and workload so come playoff time he can be that top-5 NBA player.
Because you can win a series or two with a player like that. If you pair him with an effective Tim Duncan and a restored Tony Parker you can even win a championship.
And statistics, highlights and contracts aside, hasn’t that always been the value of Manu Ginobili?