San Antonio Spurs – Still Waiting for Manu Ginobili

Besides getting fined and making David Stern very angry, how are the San Antonio Spurs doing? Pretty great. They’re now 15-4; Tony Parker is having another one of those seasons when he’s an outside MVP discussion, averaging 18.3 points and 7.3 assists. Tim Duncan is looking young again, with 18.8 and 10.1 rebounds per game. Only Manu Ginobili is kinda drifting away from the “big” status.

Because when Manu Ginobili’s average drops to 11.6 points per game, that’s not the main problem. The fact that he’s shooting under 40% from the field is. His slower, and finds it harder to make his undefensable penetrations that create just as much scoring opportunities for himself as they do for others.

This game was proof that no matter what kind of BS David Stern spews out of his mouth, Gregg Popovich putting his trust in his bench players was the right decision. Stern something complicated about the relationship between 30 teams and 30 owners. Like head coaches shouldn’t be the ones making the decisions regarding their players.

Even without Danny Green, which meant Gary Neal moved up to the starting five and showed his firepower (scoring 22 points), the San Antonio Spurs bench was the difference, adding 40 points in their 110-99 win. When the Milwaukee Bucks play a very small lineup that leaves Monta Ellis as somewhat of a small forward, there’s really no surprise the Spurs won the rebounds battle 53-36. It was their kind of basketball from the moment the game began, just bringing more tools that can score to the battle.

Tiago Splitter scored 15 points as he continues to move between great and disappointing territory, switching every game. The weak moments for the bench unit and the entire team usually came when Manu Ginobili was on the floor. His struggles in creating shots for others, and himself, push him to take bad shots. He finished with 3-10 from the field, 2-5 from beyond the arc. The Spurs will need him, at some point, to start playing like someone who isn’t going to be turning 36 his next birthday.

It’s not like he’s bad every night. He scored 20 points in the win against the Orlando Magic and despite having some awful shooting in the big win over the Memphis Grizzlies, he came up with six steals and six assists, including some big crunch time decision making. Ginobili is special because it doesn’t always translate into his individual numbers when he plays well, but he still needs to give a bit more, at least when the games become more crucial. Past and more recent injuries do limit him more and more as time goes by, but the Spurs are still expecting a bit more from him.

For now, there’s enough to make up for anyone. It’s clear who the go to guys are, but the Spurs are as deep in their scoring option as anyone in the NBA, and that’s even without Stephen Jackson or Danny Green on the floor. Nando de Colo proved he’s more than a cool name more than once this season, and it adds to the stable of quick-to-get-hot guards the Spurs have. Who knows when they’re going to need one to come up with the big shot.