On the loss of Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili is the Spurs’ only certain All-Star. He is, still, the third best shooting guard in the NBA. And some nights, he’s much better than that. He is San Antonio’s best player.
In last night’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves the Spurs also lost Manu Ginobili to a broken bone in his left hand. Initial indicators suggest he will miss 4-6 weeks of basketball. Hopefully, upon further examination, the news is not worse.
The Spurs will look to Tony Parker, James Anderson, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal, and Richard Jefferson to assume Ginobili’s production on offense and defense, but he’s a special player and it’s simply impossible to reproduce Ginobili. Nevertheless, San Antonio has been stockpiling young talent on the wing for two seasons, and if there is a silver lining in this injury, it’s that those players will have an opportunity to blossom in his absence.
Of special concern to the Spurs is Ginobili’s role as their best distributor. DeJuan Blair, in particular, plays much better basketball when he is working the screen and roll with Ginobili. Blair is off to a very good start to the season, and Ginobili’s activity as a passer is a big part of Blair’s success. In losing Ginobili, do the Spurs lose a little bit of Blair too?
In the past, the Spurs have always dealt with an injury to one of their core of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili by getting a burst of great production from one or both of the others. I’m not sure they can do that this season. There is great risk in demanding too much of Duncan or Parker in the early weeks of this season’s condensed schedule. Duncan, in particular, would not withstand heavy minutes on short rest. This is not to say Duncan is an automatic injury—it’s more of a comment about his ability to play well on limited rest and what it would mean for his body in advance of the postseason.
Big picture, then. The Spurs will be fortunate to play .500 basketball without Ginobili. If the Spurs play much worse than .500 in Ginobili’s absence, they could struggle to secure a playoff seed, even with a late season push, upon his return.
Strange times, San Antonio.