The San Antonio Spurs ended their season earlier than expected in a way that inspired many questions about the team’s future. The loss stopped the greatest regular season in franchise history, but it also had the possibility to close the books on a truly fantastic age of Spurs basketball.
Duncan has to make an official decision on his standing, but Ginobili seems set to return to San Antonio for at least one more season. Manu, who turns 39 later this month, wrote Sunday that he intends to keep playing in the NBA. The post to his personal site is in Spanish, but here’s the gist — Ginobili feels this season went better than his 2014-15, excepting his very uncomfortable-sounding testicular surgery in February, and needs to play at least a little more. More special goals will be announced by him in his regular column for La Nación, a newspaper in Argentina.
Ginobili does not say that he’ll play for the Spurs, but that conclusion appears like a formality given his long history with the franchise. A report from ESPN’s Marc Stein appears to confirm as much.
Although he’s not the game-changing disruptor at both ends that he was in his prime, Ginobili amounts to be an useful contributor to San Antonio despite his older age. As noted by Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball, Ginobili’s 2015-16 ranks as one of the four most efficiently productive age-37-or-older seasons since 1973, with Michael Jordan and Sam Cassell (twice) acting as the only other players to put up 24 points, seven assists, and five rebounds per 100 possessions. On the other hand, the context for that efficiency matters — Ginobili averaged a career-low 19.6 minutes per game and dipped below a double-figure per-game scoring average for the first time since his rookie year. He’ll likely put up similar numbers next season.
Ginobili’s return doesn’t actually solve any of the Spurs’ biggest issues.
He’s a cherished figure around the franchise and league — any time he plays for the Spurs should be savored. We should celebrate him whenever we can, because every passing season is likely to be his last.